Do circulating tumor cells play a role in coagulation and thrombosis?

Garth W. Tormoen, Kristina M. Haley, Ross L. Levine, Owen J.T. McCarty

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Cancer induces a hypercoagulable state, and patients with cancer who suffer a thrombotic event have a worse prognosis than those who do not. Recurrent pathologic thrombi in patients with cancer are clinically managed with anticoagulant medications; however, anticoagulant prophylaxis is not routinely prescribed owing to a complex variety of patient and diagnosis related factors. Early identification of patients at risk for cancer-associated thrombosis would allow for personalization of anticoagulant prophylaxis and likely reduce morbidity and mortality for many cancers. The environment in which a thrombosis develops in a patient with cancer is complex and unique from patients without cancer, which creates therapeutic challenges but may also provide targets for the development of clinical assays in this context. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) may play a role in the association between cancer and thrombosis. Cancer metastasis, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, is facilitated by the hematogenous spread of CTCs, and CTCs accompany metastatic disease across all major types of carcinomas. The role of CTCs in the pathogenesis of thrombosis has not been studied due to the previous difficulty in identifying these rare cells, but the interaction between these circulating cells and the coagulation system is an area of study that demands attention. The development of CTC detection platforms presents a new tool by which to characterize the role for CTCs in cancer-related hypercoagulability. In addition, this area of study presents a new avenue for assessing the risk of cancer-associated thrombosis and represents a potential tool for predicting which patients may benefit from anticoagulant prophylaxis. In this review, we will discuss the evidence in support of CTC induced hypercoagulability, and highlight areas where CTC-detection platforms may provide prognostic insight into the risk of developing thrombosis for patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 115
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Volume2 SEP
StatePublished - 2012


  • Blood
  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Metastasis
  • Thrombosis
  • Tissue factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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