Are circulating tumor cells important in predicting if a breast cancer will recur? A study conducted at the University of Texas indicates that the outcomes are worse in patients with circulating tumor cells, in those with non-metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has not spread to distant organs).
The study was conducted on 304 patients with operable breast cancer. The levels of circulating tumor cells were measured at the time of surgery. The patients were followed up for nearly 3 years.
AdvertisementOne or more circulating tumor cells were detected in the blood of 73 out of the total 302 patients. These patients had a decrease in overall survival. The duration for which they were free from disease was also reduced. The outcome was worse in patients with more number of circulating tumor cells.
Thus, a blood test that detects the presence of circulating tumor cells in non-metastatic breast cancer patients can predict if the patient could have an early recurrence or a decrease in overall survival.
It is however unclear at present how the treatment will have to be altered taking the findings of this study into consideration. Further studies are required before this test for circulating tumor cells can be put into clinical use.
Circulating tumour cells in non-metastatic breast cancer: a prospective study; Prof Anthony Lucci et al; The Lancet Oncology 2012