Gut Liver.  2021 Jul;15(4):553-561. 10.5009/gnl20194.

Clinical Significance of TWIST-Positive Circulating Tumor Cells in Patients with Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Pusan National University College of Medicine, Busan, Korea
  • 2Biomedical Research Institute, Pusan National University Hospital, Busan, Korea
  • 3Department of Thoracic Surgery, Pusan National University College of Medicine, Busan, Korea


Unlike other gastrointestinal tract cancers, there are relatively few reports on the clinical significance of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and TWIST, a marker of epithelial-mesenchymal transition, in patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). This study aimed to evaluate the clinical significance of TWIST expression in CTCs in patients with ESCC.
Peripheral blood samples for CTC analyses were prospectively obtained from 52 patients with ESCC prior to treatment between September 2017 and September 2019. CTCs were detected using a centrifugal microfluidic system based on a fluid-assisted separation technique, and CTCs positive for TWIST on immunostaining were defined as TWIST (+) CTCs.
Of the 52 patients with ESCC, CTCs and TWIST (+) CTCs were detected in 44 patients (84.6%) and 39 patients (75.0%), respectively. The CTC and TWIST (+) CTC counts were significantly higher in patients aged >65 years and those who had a large tumor (>3 cm) than in those aged ≤65 years and those who had a small tumor (≤3 cm), respectively. There were no differences in CTC and TWIST (+) CTC counts according to tumor location, histologic grade, or TNM stage. TWIST (+) CTCs were significantly associated with histologic grade; a proportion of TWIST (+) CTCs ≥0.5 was significantly associated with advanced histologic grade. Other clini-copathologic characteristics such as sex, age, tumor location, tumor size, and TNM stages were not significantly associated with TWIST (+) CTCs.
Our study showed that TWIST (+) CTCs were frequently detected in patients with ESCC, and a high proportion of TWIST (+) CTCs was associated with poor differentiation


Circulating tumor cells; Esophageal neoplasms; Squamous cell carcinoma; TWIST
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