Detecting Circulating Tumor Cells in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients

Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)Non-small cell lung cancer is the most prevalent form of lung cancer and accounts for more than 80% of all lung cancer cases. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) lead to metastases and often goes undetected in blood and now, scientists have developed a novel method to better detect CTCs. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team of researchers looked at hexokinase-2 or HK2, a key enzyme in glucose metabolism.

Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) is a collaborative non-profit biomedical research organization. ISB Assistant Professor, Dr. Wei Wei, said, “A set of previous reports from our collaborator Dr. Herschman (co-author of the paper) and others revealed that cancer cells often rely on HK2 to elevate glucose metabolism to fuel their uncontrolled growth, making this enzyme a desirable target for testing.”

The various techniques of CTC identifications are split into blood groups according to methods of cell enrichment and cell detection. The conventional CTC detection methods normally rely on use of family of proteins called cytokeratins, found in epithelial tissues. Despite highly aggressive nature of non-small cell lung cancer, their performance in NSCLC is sub-optimal. The researchers worked to address this issue and achieve a greater spectrum for CTC detection by exploiting a common feature of wide range of cancer cells. The use of HK2 as a biomarker leads to developing metabolic activity-based methods for identification of novel CTC population without CK expression. The use of HK2 as a tumor cell marker allows revealing a novel circulating tumor cell population which is normally overlooked by current epithelial marker-based CTC detection methods.

Wei said, “This approach can be exploited to anticipate NSCLC patient therapy response before they undergo cancer therapy, and more generally, it will be useful in identifying CTCs from patients with a wide variety of cancers, independent of epithelial traits.”


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