A unique biomarker hiding in plain sight

Circulating Endothelial Cells (CEC)

It recently became clear that cells shed from sprouting cancer blood vessels into the main blood circulation in significant numbers[1,2].

Hailed as a “truly novel biomarker” for cancer, these so-called tumour-derived Circulating Endothelial Cells (CEC) are extremely difficult to detect because they are morphologically similar to healthy blood cells.

X-ZELL, however, found a way to isolate and characterize CEC at the single cell level, using our unique multi-marker detection technology.

CEC provide a wealth of information that current clinically approved liquid biopsies cannot deliver on. The result is a world-first approach that could revolutionise cancer cell detection as we know it.

Why are CEC so valuable?

  • CEC shed from earliest stage cancers and could help us detect cancer early when it can be cured.
  • CEC shed from smallest tumour sizes (1 mm), making them ultra-sensitive to the disease [4].
  • CEC show the highest prevalence of all cell-based cancer markers, making them the ideal “point of attack” for cancer detection.

Why are CEC hard to find?

  • CEC exhibit extensive antigen overlap with white blood cells, blood stem cells and healthy endothelial cells, making them extremely hard to differentiate.
  • CEC cannot be isolated by targeting a single marker – they require the removal of healthy blood cells.
  • The characterization of CEC requires advanced multiplexing of immunostaining, a technology exclusive to X-ZELL.


[1] Cima et al., Science Translational Medicine; 8(345):345ra89. (2016)
[2] Lin et al., Scientific Reports; 7(1):9789. (2017)
[3] Bhakdi et al. , Manuscript submitted (2017)
[4] Dudley. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 2(3):1–18. (2012)

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