• in vivo flow cytometer;
  • cancer metastasis;
  • circulating tumor cells;
  • prostate cancer;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • in vivo confocal imaging


In metastasis, the cancer cells that travel through the body are capable of establishing new tumors in locations remote from the site of the original disease. To metastasize, a cancer cell must break away from its tumor and invade either the circulatory or lymphatic system, which will carry it to a new location, and establish itself in the new site. Once in the blood stream, the cancer cells now have access to every portion of the body. Here, we have used the “in vivo flow cytometer” to study if there is any relationship between metastatic potential and depletion kinetics of circulating tumor cells. The in vivo flow cytometer has the capability to detect and quantify continuously the number and flow characteristics of fluorescently labelled cells in vivo. We have improved the counting algorithm and measured the depletion kinetics of cancer cells with different metastatic potential. Interestingly, more invasive PC-3 prostate cancer cells are depleted faster from the circulation than LNCaP cells. In addition, we have measured the depletion kinetics of two related human hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) cell lines, high-metastatic HCCLM3 cells, and low-metastatic HepG2 cells. More than 60% HCCLM3 cells are depleted within the first hour. Interestingly, the low-metastatic HepG2 cells possess noticeably slower depletion kinetics. In comparison, <40% HepG2 cells are depleted within the first hour. The differences in depletion kinetics might provide insights into early metastasis processes. © 2011 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry