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Gynecol Oncol. 2006 Dec;103(3):942-7. Epub 2006 Aug 4.

Detection of disseminated tumor cells in patients with gynecological cancers.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Tuebingen, Calwerstrasse 7, D- 72076 Tuebingen, Germany.



The presence of disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in breast cancer patients is associated with poor prognosis. However, there are limited data about the prevalence and prognostic impact of DTC in patients with gynecological tumors. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of DTC in the bone marrow (BM) of patients with gynecological cancers and to correlate their presence with established prognostic factors.


BM aspirates of 201 patients with primary ovarian (n=69), cervical (n=54) and endometrial cancer (n=78), undergoing surgery at the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital, Tuebingen, Germany between 1/2002 and 01/2006, were included into the study. Cytokeratin (CK)-positive cells were identified by immunocytochemistry using the pancytokeratin antibody A45B/B3.


The bone marrow positivity rate was 36% in ovarian, 26% in cervical and 17% in endometrial cancer, respectively. Presence of DTC was significantly correlated with FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics) tumor stage (p<0.05). The recurrence rate was 14% in patients with CK-positive cells compared to 8% in CK-negative patients (p=0.2). There was no correlation between DTC and other established prognostic factors including nodal status or grading except for cervical cancer. Patients with positive lymph node status were more likely to be bone marrow positive compared to those with negative lymph node status (p<0.05).


Disseminated tumor cells seem to be a general phenomenon in epithelial tumors even though their clinical impact remains to be evaluated. The hypothesis that bone marrow is the homing site of disseminated tumor cells is further supported by these data since gynecological tumors only rarely metastasize to the skeletal system.

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