Survival analysis of circulating tumor cells in triple-negative breast cancer

Mandar Karhade, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among females, accounting for 23% (1.38 million) of the total new cancer cases and 14% (458,400) of the total cancer deaths in 2008. [1] Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive phenotype comprising 10–20% of all breast cancers (BCs). [2-4] TNBCs show absence of estrogen, progesterone and HER2/neu receptors on the tumor cells. Because of the absence of these receptors, TNBCs are not candidates for targeted therapies. Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are observed in blood of breast cancer patients even at early stages (Stage I & II) of the disease. Immunological and molecular analysis can be used to detect the presence of tumor cells in the blood (Circulating tumor cells; CTCs) of many breast cancer patients. These cells may explain relapses in early stage breast cancer patients even after adequate local control. CTC detection may be useful in identifying patients at risk for disease progression, and therapies targeting CTCs may improve outcome in patients harboring them. Methods . In this study we evaluated 80 patients with TNBC who are enrolled in a larger prospective study conducted at M D Anderson Cancer Center in order to determine whether the presence of circulating tumor cells is a significant prognostic factor in relapse free and overall survival . Patients with metastatic disease at the time of presentation were excluded from the study. CTCs were assessed using CellSearch System™ (Veridex, Raritan, NJ). CTCs were defined as nucleated cells lacking the presence of CD45 but expressing cytokeratins 8, 18 or 19. The distribution of patient and tumor characteristics was analyzed using chi square test and Fisher's exact test. Log rank test and Cox regression analysis was applied to establish the association of circulating tumor cells with relapse free and overall survival. Results. The median age of the study participants was 53years. The median duration of follow-up was 40 months. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of patients were newly diagnosed (without a previous history of breast cancer), and (60%) of patients were chemo naïve (had not received chemotherapy at the time of their blood draw for CTC analysis). Tumor characteristics such as stage (P=0.40), tumor size (P=69), sentinel nodal involvement (P=0.87), axillary lymph node involvement (P=0.13), adjuvant therapy (P=0.83), and high histological grade of tumor (P=0.26) did not predict the presence of CTCs. However, CTCs predicted worse relapse free survival (1 or more CTCs log rank P value = 0.04, at 2 or more CTCs P = 0.02 and at 3 or more CTCs P < 0.0001) and overall survival (at 1 or more CTCs log rank P value = 0.08, at 2 or more CTCs P = 0.01 and at 3 or more CTCs P = 0.0001. Conclusions. The number of circulating tumor cells predicted worse relapse free survival and overall survival in TNBC patients.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Epidemiology|Oncology

Recommended Citation

Karhade, Mandar, "Survival analysis of circulating tumor cells in triple-negative breast cancer" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1529220.