The number of circulating tumour cells in the bloodstream may predict the response to chemotherapy in prostate cancer patients, a new study has revealed.
The research team has found that changes in the number of circulating tumour cells predicted the outcome after chemotherapy.
"The results add to a growing body of evidence showing that counting these cells is a valuable method for predicting survival and for monitoring treatment benefit in these patients", said Dr. David Olmos from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in the UK.
"Our study shows that circulating tumour cell counts could provide information about how patients are responding to therapy earlier than other markers such as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) or time-to-disease progression.
"We have observed that patients with declining numbers of circulating tumour cells can see a change in their initial prognosis, reflecting a potential benefit from therapy," he added.
The study involving 119 patients, the team found that those with the lowest circulating cell counts had on average the longest survival.
"Cancer cells can be detected in the circulating blood by a range of methods", Dr. Olmos said.
"The technique we used in our study is classified as a cytometric approach. We use an antibody that is widely expressed by epithelial cancer cells, and then use a range of cell-staining techniques to ensure it is a cancer cell."
"Because these circulating cells have broken away from either primary tumors or metastatic sites in other parts of the body, they could potentially be used to help study the specific characteristics of the cancer and perhaps personalize therapy," he added.
The study was presented at the ESMO Conference Lugano (ECLU) organized by the European Society for Medical Oncology.