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Gastroenterology. 2001 Apr;120(5):1084-92.

Lack of prognostic influence of circulating tumor cells in peripheral blood of patients with colorectal cancer.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Institut de Malalties Digestives, Hospital Clínic, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.



Circulating tumor cells in peripheral blood may be detected using high-sensitivity molecular techniques in several types of solid neoplasms, but their significance in colorectal cancer is controversial. The aim of this study was to assess the prognostic value of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) messenger RNA (mRNA) detection in peripheral blood samples from patients with colorectal cancer.


Peripheral vein blood samples from 95 consecutive patients with histologically confirmed colorectal carcinoma were obtained immediately before surgery to determine the presence of circulating tumor cells by use of a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction targeting CEA mRNA. Endpoints of the study were disease-free and overall survival. Results are referred to the whole series and, more importantly, to the 68 patients who underwent surgery for cure.


After a median follow-up of 42 months, 19 of 68 patients (28%) operated on for cure had tumor relapse. In addition, 50 of 68 patients (73%) were alive. The probability of disease-free and overall survival was dependent on lymph node metastases and degree of differentiation, but not on the presence of circulating tumor cells (disease-free survival: relative risk, 1.00; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.39-2.22, P = 0.99; overall survival: relative risk, 0.91, 95% CI, 0.34-2.43; P = 0.84). Similar results were obtained when all 95 patients with colorectal cancer were analyzed (disease-free survival: relative risk, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.63-1.95; P = 0.71; overall survival: relative risk, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.63-2.30, P = 0.55).


Preoperative detection of blood circulating tumor cells by means of reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction of CEA does not have prognostic significance in patients with colorectal cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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