Probe for Universal Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells
Circulating tumors cells (CTCs) are malignant cells that enter the bloodstream during metastasis in cancer. They are an attractive source for various applications in oncology including diagnosis, evaluation of chemotherapeutic efficacy and cancer-prognosis. However, there is a lack of efficient methods for isolation/detection of CTCs.

This technology named CTC-UniPro is a universal probe to detect CTCs in blood with high sensitivity. The CTC-UniPro consists of two components. The first component is a virus-like particle (VLP) from the human papillomavirus (HPV) that enables the probe to be selective to the CTCs. The second component is a modified SV-40 virus genome that contains a marker gene and is packaged into the VLP that enables the probe to amplify within the tumor cells.

This probe has beentested in lung cancer cells. It has shown to selectively detect tumor cells and is unable to enter or amplify in normal blood cells. The inventors have also demonstrated that CTC-UniPro is significantly superior to oncolytic HSV in detecting CTCs from blood."
  • Early-stage cancer diagnosis
  • Cancer-prognosis
Problems Addressed
  • Only FDA approved method CellSearchâ„¢ is cumbersome and costly
  • Other methods use physical properties of heterogeneous tumor cells
Competitive Advantages
  • High selectivity and sensitivity to CTCs compared to normal blood cells
  • Probe can be modified for other markers and tags
  • Applicable to wide variety of tumor types
  • Simple technique could be applied for early diagnosis and screening
  • Provisional Patent Application filed
Case ID
Shaun Xiaoliu Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.
M.D. Anderson Professor of Biology and Biochemistry, Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling