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Phenotypic Profiling of Circulating Tumor Cells in Metastatic Prostate Cancer Patients Using Nanoparticle-Mediated Ranking

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posted on 02.07.2019, 00:00 by Brenda J. Green, Vivian Nguyen, Eshetu Atenafu, Phillip Weeber, Bill T. V. Duong, Punithan Thiagalingam, Mahmoud Labib, Reza M. Mohamadi, Aaron R. Hansen, Anthony M. Joshua, Shana O. Kelley
The analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) provides a means to collect information about the evolving properties of a tumor during cancer progression and treatment. For patients with metastatic prostate cancer, noninvasive serial measurements of bloodborne cells may provide a means to tailor therapeutic decisions based on an individual patient’s response. Here, we used a high-sensitivity profiling approach to monitor CTCs in patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) undergoing treatment with abiraterone and enzalutamide, two drugs used to treat advanced prostate cancer. The capture and profiling approach uses antibody-functionalized magnetic nanoparticles to sort cells according to protein expression levels. CTCs are tagged with magnetic nanoparticles conjugated to an antibody specific for the epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) and sorted into four zones of a microfluidic device based on EpCAM expression levels. Our approach was compared to the FDA-cleared CellSearch method, and we demonstrate significantly higher capture efficiency of low-EpCAM cells compared to the commercial method. The nanoparticle-based approach detected CTCs from 86% of patients at baseline, compared to CellSearch which only detected CTCs from 60% of patients. Patients were stratified as prostate specific antigen (PSA) progressive versus responsive based on clinically acceptable definitions, and it was observed that patients with a limited response to therapy had elevated levels of androgen receptor variant 7 (ARV7) and the mesenchymal marker, N-cadherin, expressed on their CTCs. In addition, these CTCs exhibited lower EpCAM expression. The results highlight features of CTCs associated with disease progression on abiraterone or enzalutamide, including mesenchymal phenotypes and increased expression levels of ARV7. The use of a high-sensitivity method to capture and profile CTCs provides more informative data concerning the phenotypic properties of these cells as patients undergo treatment relative to an FDA-cleared method.

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