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Research Article Open Access
Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a highly aggressive malignancy with limited therapeutic options. Early and accurate detection is critically important for successful cancer treatment. Currently, the most widely used and best validated marker for pancreatic cancer is carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) and carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). However, inadequate sensitivity and specificity limit the use of CA 19-9 and CEA in the early screening and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. During past ten years, circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as a new liquid biomarker have received enormous attention in cancer diagnosis and management. Although CTCs are extremely rare and challenging to be isolated, their clinical significance has extensively been investigated in numerous clinical trials. In this review, we summarize the CTC application in translational pancreatic cancer research and its outlook in the future, specifically evaluating its clinical potential in pancreatic cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and treatments. Development of sensitive, specific, and reliable methods is expected towards a major impact on our ability in cancer management.