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Histol Histopathol. 2012 Jul;27(7):855-64. doi: 10.14670/HH-27.855.

Hormone receptor status, erbB2 expression and cancer stem cell characteristics of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer patients.

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Tumorbiology Laboratory, Clinic for Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Campus Innenstadt, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.


The most important predictor for disease-free and overall survival of breast cancer patients is the presence of axillary lymph node metastasis. For surveillance during recurrence-free follow-up or in metastatic disease no marker is available at the moment. Several trials have shown the prognostic relevance of circulating tumor cells (CTC) in early and metastatic breast cancers. Indeed, only CTC that exhibit specific molecular characteristics including stem cell characteristics, could be able to create new metastasis. Hormone therapy or anti-erbB2 therapies are prescribed according to the hormone (ERα/PR expression) and erbB2 status of the initial tumor. Nonetheless, it appears that the CTC, and consequently the metastatic cells, may have a very different hormone and erbB2 status. An optimal individualized treatment could then be obtained by characterizing ERα and erbB2 status in the CTC and comparing it to the primary tumor.

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