Cancer cells that escape the tumour into the blood circulation are responsible for metastasis.

In a project funded by the Bone Cancer Research Trust, Prof Dominique Heymann from the University of Sheffield is studying these circulating tumour cells (CTCs) as bio-markers for disease progression, metastatic potential and response to treatment.

As circulating tumour cells are in the bloodstream, they are easy to obtain through a non-invasive liquid biopsy; however, they are in very low numbers and mixed with other cells, so techniques that allow their capture and identification are at the forefront of cancer research.

Key findings of this research

In a research model of osteosarcoma, cells were marked with a light emitting substance, this allowed scientist to identify, follow and isolate them. Marked circulating tumour cells were then obtained and quantified from blood samples before and after ifosfamide treatment. When the CTCs are isolated after ifosfamide treatment they were re-implanted into the model, it was found that they were less able to form lung metastases.

Why is this research important?

This proof of concept research highlights the interest and potential of CTCs in osteosarcoma, in order to find methods of identifying patients with a higher risk of the tumour spreading.