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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2006 Dec;13(4):1033-67.

Significance, detection and markers of disseminated breast cancer cells.

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Laboratoire Jean-Claude Heuson de Cancérologie Mammaire, Institut Jules Bordet, Bruxelles, Belgium.


The development of distant metastases is the major cause of death from breast cancer. In order to predict and prevent tumour spreading, many attempts are being made to detect small numbers of tumour cells that have shed from the primary lesions and have moved to lymph nodes, blood or bone marrow. This article presents the advantages and the limitations of techniques used for disseminated tumour cells (DTC) detection. DTC markers are listed and the most currently used of them (KRT19, CEACAM5, TACSTD1, MUC1, EGFR, ERBB2, SCGB2A2, SCGB2A1, SCGB1D2, PIP, SBEM, TFF1, TFF3, ANKRD30A, SPDEF, ESR1, SERPINB5 and GABRP) are discussed, notably on the basis of recent data on breast tumour portraits (luminal epithelial-like, basal/myoepithelial-like and ERBB2). The significance of DTC for the prognosis and prediction of response to therapy is examined. DTC viability, the notion of cell dormancy and the concept of breast cancer stem cells are also discussed.

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