Send to

Choose Destination
J Clin Oncol. 2008 Mar 10;26(8):1208-15. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.13.6523.

Monitoring the response of circulating epithelial tumor cells to adjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer allows detection of patients at risk of early relapse.

Author information

Department of Experimental Hematology and Oncology, Clinic for Internal Medicine II, Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena, Erlanger Allee 101, D-07747, Jena, Germany.



To demonstrate that it is possible to monitor the response to adjuvant therapy by repeated analysis of circulating epithelial tumor cells (CETCs) and to detect patients early who are at risk of relapse.


In 91 nonmetastatic primary breast cancer patients, CETCs were quantified using laser scanning cytometry of anti-epithelial cell adhesion molecule-stained epithelial cells from whole unseparated blood before and during adjuvant chemotherapy.


Numbers of CETCs were analyzed before therapy, before each new cycle, and at the end of chemotherapy. The following three typical patterns of response were observed: (1) decrease in cell numbers (> 10-fold); (2) marginal changes in cell numbers (< 10-fold); and (3) an (sometimes saw-toothed) increase or an initial decrease with subsequent reincrease (> 10-fold) in numbers of CETCs. Twenty relapses (22%) were observed within the accrual time of 40 months, including one of 28 patients from response group 1, five of 30 patients from response group 2, and 14 of 33 patients from response group 3. The difference in relapse-free survival was highly significant for CETC (hazard ratio = 4.407; 95% CI, 1.739 to 9.418; P < .001) between patients with decreasing cell numbers and those with marginal changes and between patients with marginal changes and those with an increase of more than 10-fold (linear Cox regression model).


These results show that peripherally circulating tumor cells are influenced by systemic chemotherapy and that an increase (even after initial response to therapy) of 10-fold or more at the end of therapy is a strong predictor of relapse and a surrogate marker for the aggressiveness of the tumor cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center