Lung cancer is a leading cause of mortality and despite surgical resection a proportion of patients may develop metastatic spread. The detection of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) may allow for improved prediction of metastatic spread and survival. The current study evaluates the efficacy of the ScreenCell® filtration device, to capture, isolate and propagate CTCs in patients with primary lung cancer. Prior to assessment of CTCs, the present study detected cancer cells in a proof‑of‑principle‑ experiment using A549 human lung carcinoma cells as a model. Ten patients (five males and five females) with pathologically diagnosed primary non‑small cell lung cancer undergoing surgical resection, had their blood tested for CTCs. Samples were taken from a peripheral vessel at the baseline, from the pulmonary vein draining the lobe containing the tumour immediately prior to division, a further central sample was taken following completion of the resection, and a final peripheral sample was taken three days post‑resection. A significant increase in CTCs was observed from baseline levels following lung manipulation. No association was able to be made between increased levels of circulating tumour cells and survival or the development of metastatic deposits. Manipulation of the lung during surgical resection for non‑small cell lung carcinoma results in a temporarily increased level of CTCs; however, no clinical impact for this increase was observed. Overall, the study suggests the ScreenCell® device has the potential to be used as a CTC isolation tool, following further work, adaptations and improvements to the technology and validation of results.