The power of immunomagnetic CTC detection – Meet the AdnaTest family

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The importance of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in cancer research is broadly accepted in the scientific community today. Since CTCs undergo phenotypic changes known as the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), they are a valuable indicator for disease progression and therapy resistance.

To learn from CTCs, we must be able to effectively detect and characterize them. There are only a few technologies on the market that can actually go beyond traditional counting and accomplish this.

QIAGEN offers the AdnaTest, an open platform that enables comprehensive investigation into the molecular profile of CTCs. This highly specific immunomagnetic cell selection system combines an optimized antibody mixture with highly sensitive RT-PCR technology. This combination enables sensitive detection and characterization of CTCs and EMT and also supports discovery of new cancer biomarkers.

How does the AdnaTest actually work?

The AdnaTest system uses a two-stage process for the detection and molecular characterization of tumor cells from peripheral blood samples. First, the CTCs in the blood sample are enriched in a process that uses antibody-coated magnetic beads. Each AdnaTest Select has a combination of antibodies that bind with high specificity and affinity to epitopes or antigens on the relevant cancer cells. After magnetic separation, the enriched cells are lysed to make the relevant tumor cell information available in the form of mRNA.

AdnaTest workflow, top panel

Figure 1. Highly specific tumor cell enrichment via immunomagnetic cell selection.


Highly sensitive RT-PCR is then used to find tumor-associated expression patterns. The mRNA strands are reverse transcribed into cDNA. Subsequently, several tumor associated markers are amplified via multiplex PCR so that their expression patterns can be analyzed.

AdnaTest workflow, second panel

Figure 2. Multiplex RT-PCR of various cancer-associated tumor markers.


Figure 3 shows the results for samples that were prepared with the AdnaTest ProstateCancer and subsequently analyzed with an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer. The samples tested positive for epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA), as expected, and the results for the controls showed that the PCR was successful


Figure 3. Samples were prepared with the AdnaTest ProstateCancer and then analyzed with an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer. The first lane shows the DNA size standard. Sample 1 is positive for EGFR, sample 2 is positive for PSMA and PSA, and sample 3 is positive for PSMA, PSA and EGFR. Sample 4 is negative. Actin is detected in samples 1–4. The PCR negative and positive controls are shown in the last two lanes.


The AdnaTest family consists of eight different kits covering all of the major cancers that impact our lives. In addition to the AdnaTest kits available for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, the AdnaTest EMT-2/StemCell allows the analysis of EMT and stem cell-like CTC characteristics in immunomagnetically enriched tumor cells.

We recently launched two novel liquid biopsy panels – the AdnaTest ProstateCancerPanel AR-V7 and the AdnaTest LungCancer.

Curious to find out more? Download the respective product flyers for the AdnaTest ProstateCancerPanel AR-V7 and the AdnaTest LungCancer or visit our Liquid Biopsy Resource Center for additional information.

How AdnaTest works:

Kjell Kirschbaum

Kjell Kirschbaum, M.Sc., is a Global Market Manager based in QIAGEN’s Venlo office, the Netherlands. He trained as a bioveterinary scientist at the University of Utrecht and has hands-on experience in nucleic acid and protein purification, cell culture, PCR and qPCR technology. Kjell joined QIAGEN in 2011 as a CRM specialist, regularly interacting with customers about their day-to-day experimental needs and offering relevant solutions. Currently, he is involved in managing global projects for sample preparation and automation technologies.

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