Circulating tumor cell and cell-free RNA capture and expression analysis identify platelet-associated genes in metastatic lung cancer

Tim N. Beck, Yanis A. Boumber, Charu Aggarwal, Jianming Pei, Catherine Thrash-Bingham, Patricia Fittipaldi, Ramillya Vlasenkova, Chandra Rao, Hossein Borghaei, Massimo Cristofanilli, Ranee Mehra, Ilya Serebriiskii, R. Katherine Alpaugh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTC) and plasma cell-free RNA (cfRNA) can serve as biomarkers for prognosis and treatment response in lung cancer. One barrier to the selected or routine use of CTCs and plasma cfRNA in precision oncology is the limited quantity of both, and CTCs are only seen in metastatic disease. As capture of CTCs and plasma cfRNA presents an opportunity to monitor and assess malignancies without invasive procedures, we compared two methods for CTC capture and identification, and profiled mRNA from CTCs and plasma cfRNA to identify potential tumor-associated biomarkers. Methods: Peripheral blood was collected from ten patients with small cell lung cancer (SCLC), ten patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and four healthy volunteers. Two methods were used for CTC capture: the standard epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCam) CellSearch kit (unicapture) and EpCAM plus HER2, EGFR and MUC-1 specific combined ferrofluid capture (quadcapture). For the quadcapture, anti-cytokeratin 7 (CK7) was additionally used to assist in CTC identification. NanoString analysis was performed on plasma cfRNA and on mRNA from combined ferrofluid isolated CTCs. Expression data was analyzed using STRING and Reactome. Results: Unicapture detected CTCs in 40% of NSCLC and 60% of SCLC; whereas, quadcapture/CK7 identified CTCs in 20% of NSCLC and 80% of SCLC. Bioinformatic analysis of NanoString data identified high expression of a platelet factor 4 (PF4)-related group of transcripts. Conclusions: Quadcapture ferrofluid reagent did not significantly improve CTC capture efficacy. NanoString analysis based on CTC and plasma cfRNA data highlighted an intriguing PF-4-centric network in patients with metastatic lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number603
JournalBMC cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 19 2019


  • Cell-free RNA
  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Platelets
  • SCLC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Circulating tumor cell and cell-free RNA capture and expression analysis identify platelet-associated genes in metastatic lung cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this