Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Cancer Biology (Medicine)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Ram H. Datar

Second Committee Member

Ralf Landgraf

Third Committee Member

Carmen Gomez-Fernandez

Fourth Committee Member

Diana M. Lopez

Fifth Committee Member

Stephan Zuchner

Sixth Committee Member

Toumy Guettouch


Circulating Tumor Cells (CTC) are tumor cells found in cancer patients’ peripheral blood. They hold significant clinical value for cancer prognosis and management. While enumeration of CTC has been proven to provide reliable prognosis value for cancer management, further molecular and functional characterization of CTC may provide insights into both the biology of metastasis and critical clinical information such as the dynamic changes in molecular expression of tumor cells during treatment. Here, we will discuss how molecular and functional characterization of CTC can be utilized for such clinical applications, and the methodology development for such applications including a thermo-responsive release method of viable CTCs for downstream characterization. Another aspect of CTC is their interactions with circulating cellular microenvironment components. Tumor microenvironment components, such as Cancer Associated Fibroblasts (CAF) and Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells (MDSC), play important roles in tumor growth and metastasis formation. Here, we will discuss the identification of their interactions with CTC in circulation and how they are associated with metastasis in both murine models and clinical settings.


Circulating Tumor Cell; Tumor Microenvironment; Liquid Biopsy; Circulating Cancer Associated Fibroblasts; Single Cell Profiling