Uncovering CTCs phenotypes offer the promise to dissect their heterogeneity related to metastatic competence. CTC survival rates are highly variable and this can lead to many questions as yet unexplored properties of CTCs responsible for invasion and metastasis vs dormancy. We isolated CTC subsets from peripheral blood of patients diagnosed with or without breast cancer brain metastasis. CTC subsets were selected for EpCAM negativity but positivity for CD44+/CD24- stem cell signature; along with combinatorial expression of uPAR and int β1, two markers directly implicated in breast cancer dormancy mechanisms. CTC subsets were cultured in vitro generating 3D CTC tumorspheres which were interrogated for biomarker profiling and biological characteristics. We identified proliferative and invasive properties of 3D CTC tumorspheres distinctive upon uPAR/int β1 combinatorial expression. The molecular characterization of uPAR/int β1 CTC subsets may enhance abilities to prospectively identify patients who may be at high risk of developing BCBM.
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