Comparison of bone marrow, disseminated tumour cells and blood-circulating tumour cells in breast cancer patients after primary treatment

M. J. Slade, R. Payne, S. Riethdorf, B. Ward, S. A. A. Zaidi, J. Stebbing, C. Palmieri, H. D. Sinnett, E. Kulinskaya, T. Pitfield, R. T. McCormack, K. Pantel, R. C. Coombes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to determine whether primary breast cancer patients showed evidence of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) during follow-up as an alternative to monitoring disseminated bone marrow tumour cells (DTCs) by immunocytochemistry and reverse transcriptase (RT)–PCR for the detection of micrometastases. We planned to compare CTC and DTC frequency in low-risk and high-risk patients. We identified two cohorts of primary breast cancer patients who were at low (group II, T1N0, n=18) or high (group III, >3 nodes positive (with one exception, a patient with two positive nodes) n=33) risk of relapse who were being followed up after primary treatment. We tested each cohort for CTCs using the CellSearch system on 1–7 occasions and for DTCs by immunocytochemistry and RT–PCR on 1–2 occasions over a period of 2 years. We also examined patients with confirmed metastatic disease (group IV, n=12) and 21 control healthy volunteers for CTCs (group I). All group I samples were negative for CTCs. In contrast, 7 out of 18 (39%) group II primary patients and 23 out of 33 (70%) group III patients were positive for CTCs (P=0.042). If we count only samples with >1 cell as positive: 2 out of 18 (11%) group II patients were positive compared with 10 out of 33 (30%) in group III (P=0.174). In the case of DTCs, 1 out of 13 (8%) group II patients were positive compared with 19 out of 27 (70%) in group III (P
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this