Circulating tumour cells in blood up death risk in early-stage breast cancer patients

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Washington, Dec 11 (ANI): A new study has shown that the presence of one to four circulating tumour cells in the blood of patients, who are in the early stages of breast cancer, can double the risk of cancer relapse and death.

Additionally, five or more CTCs increased recurrence by 400 percent and death by 300 percent, according to the study.

Brigitte Rack, head of the department of gynaecological oncology at the Women's Hospital at the University of Munich, Germany, said, "The CTCs might have been released from the primary tumour before these patients underwent surgery, and the expression of stem cell markers on disseminated tumours cells has been shown by several groups."

Rack added that these cells are cancer stem cells.

According to the study results, 21.5 percent of patients had one or more CTC in their blood before the start of adjuvant treatment. Breast cancer recurred in 114 patients, and 66 patients died.

Patients with one to four CTCs had an 88 percent increased risk of early breast cancer recurrence and a 91 percent increased risk of death from breast cancer, according to Rack.

"Our study suggests testing CTCs may prove to be important to help individualize therapy for early-stage breast cancer where no measurable tumour is present," she said.

"Patients who seem to be at high risk due to CTC may benefit from additional treatment options, and those that don't have CTCs may be spared side effects of some treatments."

However, Rack cautioned that additional trials are required in order to to show an improvement of survival based on CTC diagnostics.

Results of this study were presented at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 8-12, 2010. (ANI)

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