Biomarkers Consortium - High Definition Single Cell Analysis of Blood and Tissue Biopsies in Patients with Colorectal Cancer Undergoing Hepatic Metastasectomy

This project completed in November 2019.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in western countries. The five-year survival rate in early-stage CRC patients falls from 90% to 60% with lymph node involvement and to 10% with metastases. Early detection and treatment of mCRC would benefit from an easily obtainable biomarker signature (bio-signature) to characterize patient subpopulations. The core hypothesis for this project is that a liquid biopsy can serve as a source of rare circulating cells (CTCs) to represent or complement the traditional solid biopsy. The project is an observational clinical study in two stages, with a possible third stage, to sample CTCs and solid tissue site image from patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) undergoing liver resection. Cell-free DNA will also be collected as part of the liquid biopsies for later analysis if warranted. 


  • Determine the level of correlation between liquid (blood) and solid (tumor touch prep) biopsies.
  • Develop biosignatures for liquid biopsy representation of solid biopsies through genomic, proteomic, and morphometric profiling of primary tumor, circulating cells, and metastases.
  • Correlate multivariate profiling to outcome; predict recurrence.

Results & Accomplishments

Scientific Publications

Effect of Blood Collection Tube Type and Time Processing on the Enumeration and High-Content Characterization of Circulating Tumor Cells Using the High-Definition Single-Cell Assay. Rodriguez-Lee M, et al. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2018 Feb142(2):198-207. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2016-0483-OA. 


Single Cell Correlation Analysis of Liquid and Solid Biopsies in Metastatic Colorectal Cancer. Gerdtsson AS, Thiele J, Shishido SN, Zheng S, Schaffer R, Bethel K, Curley S, Lenz H, Hanna DL, Nieva J, Kolatkar A, Ruiz C, Rodriguez-Lee M, Oakley GJ, Lee JSH, Hick J, Kuhn P. Oncotarget. 2019 Dec 17;10(66):7016-7030. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.27271.

Final research data, images and experimental protocols are publicly available through Dr. Kuhn’s USC website. 


University of Southern California Press Release (May 4, 2016):


Public-Sector Partners
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center*
National Cancer Institute
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Private-Sector Partners
Amgen, Inc.*
Eli Lilly and Company*

Academic Partners
Baylor College of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University*
Scripps Health
University of Southern California

*Provides financial or in-kind support for this program.

FNIH Contacts

Stacey J. Adam, Ph.D., Director, Cancer;
Dana E. Connors, Senior Project Manager, Cancer;