Living Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) Technology for Basic and Translational Applications

Categories: “Diagnostics” “Research Tools

Reference #: 2019-011

OTC Contact: Ruchika Nijhara Ph.D., MBA, Director (Directory Information | Send a Message)


Cancer metastases are responsible for most cancer deaths, and circulating tumor cells (CTCs) play a central role in tumor dissemination and metastasis. Robust molecular and functional characterization of CTCs remains central to a more comprehensive understanding of the metastatic process and advancing successful therapeutic intervention. This innovative technology represents proprietary media and novel culture conditions for the selective expansion of CTCs from diverse cancer types. By developing “live CTCs,” this unique invention allows biological and molecular interrogation, including drug sensitivity testing, unachievable by current CTC methodologies.


Georgetown researchers have developed an exclusive technique to generate CTC cultures and CTC-Derived Xenograft (CDX) models from individual patients with metastatic breast, colorectal, lung, and pancreatic cancer. This technology is a significant advance among the alternatives available as it offers a source of viable, individual, and reliable patient-derived CTCs and CDXs. These models can be generated on a time scale within the life expectancy of many patients with metastatic cancer.


  • Potential clinical use of CTCs in the early diagnosis and prognosis of cancer
  • Capability of biological and molecular interrogation of CTCs
  • Opportunity for non-invasive monitoring of tumor-associated cell mutations
  • Ability to expand sufficient CTCs to identify metastasis-associated biomarkers
  • Promise platform to study drug susceptibility patterns
  • Useful research tool to study the biology of aggressive cancers such as CCA for which it is hard to biopsy a patient.


  • Unique technology that can selectively expand CTCs
  • Reliable source of viable, individual, patient-derived CTCs and CDXs cell cultures
  • Minimally invasive approach to tumor tissue
  • High success rates for various types of cancer (80-100% of cultures initiated)
  • Hight success establishment rate of CDX models (>80%) and low latency periods (1-3 months)
  • Simple and reproducible method for CTC expansion allowing the use as part of clinical studies

Stage of Development

CTC cultures and CTC-Derived Xenograft (CDX) models were generated from fresh peripheral blood draws from patients with metastatic breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, and cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) cancer. Expansion of the technology to include remote collection and studies are underway.

Patent Status

Patent application has been filed.


Paula R Pohlmann
Seema Agarwal
Richard Schlegel