• circulating tumor cells;
  • non-small-cell lung carcinoma;
  • EpCAM;
  • cytology;
  • immunocytochemistry


Comparison of the efficacy of different enrichment methods for detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) before radical surgery is lacking in non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) patients. Detection and enumeration of CTCs in 210 consecutive patients undergoing radical surgery for NSCLC were evaluated with the CellSearch Assay™ (CS), using the CellSearch Epithelial Cell Kit, and by the isolation by size of epithelial tumor (ISET) method, using double immunolabeling with anti-cytokeratin and anti-vimentin antibodies. CTCs were detected in 144 of 210 (69%) patients using CS and/or ISET and in 104 of 210 (50%) and 82 of 210 (39%) patients using ISET and CS, respectively. Using ISET, 23 of 210 (11%) patients had vimentin-positive cells with cytological criteria of malignancy. Disease-free survival (DFS) was worse for patients with CTCs compared to patients without CTCs detected by CS alone (p < 0.0001; log rank = 30.59) or by ISET alone (p < 0.0001; log rank = 33.07). The presence of CTCs detected by both CS and ISET correlated even better with shorter DFS at a univariate (p < 0.0001; log rank = 42.15) and multivariate level (HR, 1.235; 95% CI, 1.056–1.482; p < 0.001). CS and ISET are complementary methods for detection of CTCs in preoperative radical surgery for NSCLC. CTC detection in resectable NSCLC patients using CS and/or ISET could be a prognostic biomarker of great interest and may open up new avenues into improved therapeutic strategies for lung carcinoma patients.