Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in blood associate with overall survival (OS) of cancer patients, but they are detected in extremely low numbers. Large tumour-derived extracellular vesicles (tdEVs) in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) patients are present at around 20 times higher frequencies than CTCs and have equivalent prognostic power.
University of Twente researchers explored the presence of tdEVs in other cancers and their association with OS. The open-source ACCEPT software was used to automatically enumerate tdEVs in digitally stored CellSearch® images obtained from previously reported CTC studies evaluating OS in 190 CRPC, 450 metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), 179 metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and 137 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients before the initiation of a new treatment.
Examples of objects manually classified as CTCs by individual users
(a) or automatically classified as tdEVs using the open-source ACCEPT software (b) on images obtained from CRPC, MBC, mCRC and NSCLC cancer patients. The red contours around the objects indicate the contours as detected by the ACCEPT image analysis algorithm. All objects were isolated from 7.5 mL of blood using the CellSearch system. Scale bars indicate 6.4 μm.
tdEVs have equivalent prognostic value as CTCs in the investigated metastatic cancers. CRPC, mCRC, and MBC (but not NSCLC) patients with favourable CTC counts can be further prognostically stratified using tdEVs. Our data suggest that tdEVs could be used in clinical decision-making.