Chin J Cancer Res 2015 Oct;27(5):461-70
Dipartimento Medicina Molecolare, Sapienza Università di Roma, Roma, Italy.
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) represent a submicroscopic fraction detached from a primary tumor and in transit to a secondary site. The prognostic significance of CTCs in metastatic cancer patients was demonstrated for the first time more than ten years ago. To date, it seems clear enough that CTCs are highly heterogeneous and dynamically change their shape. Thus, the inadequacy of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) as universal marker for CTCs detection seems unquestionable and alternative methods able to recognize a broader spectrum of phenotypes are definitely needed. In this review the pleiotropic functions of EpCAM are discussed in detail and the role of the molecule in the biology of CTCs is critically dissected.