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
One 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