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Br J Cancer. 2011 Apr 26;104(9):1434-9. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.97. Epub 2011 Mar 29.

Disseminated tumour cells as a prognostic biomarker in colorectal cancer.

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  • 1Department of Tumor Biology, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo 0424, Norway.



The study was performed to determine detection rate and prognostic relevance of disseminated tumour cells (DTC) in patients receiving curatively intended surgery for colorectal cancer (CRC).


The study population consisted of 235 patients with CRC prospectively recruited from five hospitals in the Oslo region. Bone marrow (BM) aspirates were collected at the time of surgery and the presence of DTC was determined by two immunological methods; immunomagnetic selection (using an anti-EpCAM antibody) and immunocytochemistry (using a pan-cytokeratin antibody). Associations between the presence of DTC and metastasis-free, disease-specific and overall survival were analysed using univariate and multivariate methods.


Disseminated tumour cells were detected in 41 (17%) and 28 (12%) of the 235 examined BM samples by immunomagnetic selection and immunocytochemistry, respectively, with only five samples being positive with both methods. The presence of DTC was associated with adverse outcome (metastasis-free, disease-specific and overall survival) in univariate and multivariate analyses.


The presence of DTC was associated with adverse prognosis in this cohort of patients curatively resected for CRC, suggesting that DTC detection still holds promise as a biomarker in CRC.

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