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Circulating Tumor Cell Core

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Circulating tumor cells (CTC) are recognized as significant contributors to the metastatic cascade in solid tumors. The NU CTC Core Facility at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center was established in 2021. The mission of the facility is to provide cutting-edge capabilities for liquid biopsy research to faculty, staff, and students at Northwestern University and other institutions. The CTC Core Facility focuses on analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from the peripheral blood of patients with solid tumors, primarily breast, prostate cancer, and lung cancers in the clinical setting. The isolation and evaluation of these unique cells offer crucial prognostic and predictive insights in clinical practice. The capacity for longitudinal monitoring using a less invasive, patient-centered approach presents a significant advantage for Precision Medicine applications.

Equipment Available

  • Cellsearch immunomagnetic system (Menarini Silicon Biosystems)
  • DEPArray (Menarini Silicon Biosystems)
  • Parsortix™ Cell Separation System
  • Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) (Bio-Rad)

Services Offered

  • CTC enumeration and marker expression assay (CellSearch system)
  • Single CTC isolation (DEPArray system)
  • Live CTC isolation and culture (Parsortix system)
  • Gene alteration (SNV) analysis (ddPCR system)
  • Immunofluorescence imaging
  • Sample banking (for CTCs, plasma, serum, and buffy coat)


Qiang Zhang, MD, PhD
Operations Director
(312) 503-5489

Huiping Liu, MD, PhD
Scientific Director


710 N. Fairbanks Court
Olson Building 8-523
Chicago, IL. 60611


All manuscripts and grants presenting work supported by this core should include the following acknowledgement:

"This work was supported by the Circulating Tumor Cell Core of the Robert H Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University."