Survival in metastatic breast cancer directly linked to circulating tumor cells

May 06, 2010

A new study of metastatic breast cancer shows that the number of circulating tumor cells patients have in their blood directly correlates with the length of their survival. Reported at the IMPAKT Breast Cancer Conference in Brussels, Belgium, the results have the potential to improve the delivery of personalized therapy to these patients.

Circulating tumor cells --cancer cells found in a patient's bloodstream-- are detected in 50% to 80% of patients with metastatic . Since 2004, doctors have known that patients with 5 or more of these cells in 7.5 ml of blood survive on average for less time than those with fewer than 5 cells.

Dr Antonio Giordano from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, USA, and colleagues set out to refine this prognostic test using a sophisticated computer model known as an artificial neural network.

"We chose to use an artificial neural network model to analyze 516 consecutive patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center because, unlike more typical statistical methods, it can estimate the complex interactions between different factors over time," said Dr Giordano. "Our model, designed at the University of Naples Federico II, simply represents a dynamic time-related analysis of survival, taking into account all prognostic factor correlations."

Using the , the researchers studied the relationship between increasing numbers of and survival for different subgroups of breast cancer.

"We found that there was a linear relationship between the number of circulating tumor cells and the risk of death in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Most importantly, the risk of death after 1 year for patients with 40 circulating tumor cells in 7.5 ml of blood was about twice that for patients with none."

"These results show that the simple cutoff number of 5 circulating tumor cells probably does not adequately represent the complexity of this prognostic variable," Dr Giordano said. "Artificial neural networks are sophisticated techniques for analyzing survival of patients according to continuous variables over time."

Translated to clinical practice, these results suggest that monitoring of circulating tumor cell numbers should now be considered a standard test for patients with metastatic breast cancer, Dr Giordano said.

"While the treatment of this condition remains palliative, monitoring of circulating tumor cells can help determine when to modify regimens or discontinue therapy, in other words, this can improve the delivery of personalized therapy."

Explore further: Combining images and genetic data proves gene loss behind aggressive ovarian cancers

Provided by European Society for Medical Oncology

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Revisiting the need to detect circulating tumor cells

Mar 16, 2010

One of the most dangerous characteristics of cancer is its ability to metastasize, or spread through the body. For this reason, oncologists have a major need for better tests to detect cells that break away from primary tumors ...

Genes set scene for metastasis

Apr 11, 2007

Biologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) have identified a set of genes expressed in human breast cancer cells that work together to remodel the network of blood vessels at the site of the primary tumor. ...

Recommended for you

Low risk of malignancy for small complex adnexal masses

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For older women with small complex adnexal masses, the overall risk of malignancy is low, according to a study published in the December issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.