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Circulating tumor cells in immunohistochemical subtypes of metastatic breast cancer: lack of prediction in HER2-positive disease treated with targeted therapy

Department of Hematopathology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.
Annals of Oncology (Impact Factor: 6.58). 09/2011; 23(5):1144-50. DOI: 10.1093/annonc/mdr434
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are associated with inferior prognosis in metastatic breast cancer (MBC). We hypothesized that the relationship between CTCs and disease subtype would provide a better understanding of the clinical and biologic behavior of MBC.
We retrospectively analyzed 517 MBC patients treated at a single institution. Subtypes of primary tumors were analyzed by immunohistochemical (IHC) or fluorescent in situ hybridization analyses and CTCs were enumerated by CellSearch(®) at starting a new therapy. Overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival durations for each IHC subtype were determined.
At a median follow-up of 24.6 months, 276 of 517 (53%) patients had died. The median OS for patients with <5 and ≥ 5 CTCs were 32.4 and 18.3 months, respectively (P < 0.001). Except in HER2+ patients, the prognostic value of CTCs was independent of disease subtype and disease site.
In this large retrospective study, CTCs were strongly predictive of survival in all MBC subtypes except HER2+ patients who had been treated with targeted therapy. Our results clearly demonstrate the value of enumerating CTCs in MBC and strongly suggest an interesting biological implication in the HER2+ subset of patients that need to be further explored.

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