Knowing the Outlook Could Improve the Outcome

Circulating tumor cells predict path of breast cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Scientists continue to advance their understanding of how breast cancer develops and progresses. Knowing where the disease is headed offers powerful new alternatives.

French researchers demonstrated that the presence of what's known as "circulating tumor cells" (CTC) in a patient’s blood is strong indicator of poor outcomes, including a short time before the disease gets worse.

"Certain cells in the blood can predict the course of breast cancer."

Dr François-Clement Bidard and colleagues from Institute Curie in Paris report that these new findings set the scene for additional trials designed to learn if treatment that targets CTCs can improve outcome.

“We needed to do this study to confirm data provided by earlier small studies,” Dr Bidard said. “Now we are certain that circulating tumor cells (CTC) are prognostic at baseline, and that CTC changes under treatment may be an early indicator of chemotherapy efficiency.”

The study results also add useful evidence regarding how many CTCs per blood sample should be used to define patients at ‘high risk’ for a poor outcome.

“Generally, the more CTC you have, the worse it is,” Dr Bidard said. “However, to define a ‘high risk group’, a threshold is needed.”

Researchers presented their findings at the recent IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels.

The Study

  • 260 patients were evaluated for CTC levels at baseline
  • 170 (65%) had at least one CTC per 7.5 ml blood sample
  • 115 (44%) had five or more CTCs
  • Analysis of results showed that several factors, including CTC counts, accurately predicted disease progression and overall survival
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Review Date: 
May 10, 2011
Last Updated:
May 10, 2011