5 years ago

Molecular characterization and heterogeneity of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer

Vladimir Bobek, Zuzana Bielcikova, Bartlomiej Szynglarewicz, Eliska Pospisilova, Urszula Staszek-Szewczyk, Milada Zemanova, Rafal Matkowski, Anna Jakabova, Katarina Kolostova, Petra Eliasova, Lubos Petruzelka



This study analyzes peripheral blood samples from breast cancer (BC) patients. CTCs from peripheral blood were enriched by size-based separation and were then cultivated in vitro. The primary aim of this study was to demonstrate the antigen independent CTC separation method with high CTC recovery. Subsequently, CTCs enriched several times during the treatment were characterized molecularly.


Patients with different stages of BC (N = 167) were included into the study. All patients were candidates for surgery, surgical diagnostics, or were undergoing chemotherapy. In parallel, 20 patients were monitored regularly and in addition to CTC presence, also CTC character was examined by qPCR, with special focus on HER2 and ESR status.


CTC positivity in the cohort was 76%. There was no significant difference between the tested groups, but the highest CTC occurrence was identified in the group undergoing surgery and similarly in the group before the start of neoadjuvant treatment. On the other hand, the lowest CTC frequencies were observed in the menopausal patient group (56%), ESR+ patient group (60%), and DCIS group (44.4%). It is worth noting that after completion of neoadjuvant therapy (NACT) CTCs were present in 77.7% of cases. On the other hand, patients under hormonal treatment were CTC positive only in 52% of cases.


Interestingly, HER2 and ESR status of CTCs differs from the status of primary tumor. In 50% of patients HER2 status on CTCs changed not only from HER2+ to HER2−, but also from HER2– to HER2+ (33%). ESR status in CTCs changed only in one direction from ESR+ to ESR−.


Data obtained from the present study suggest that BC is a heterogeneous disease but CTCs may be detected independently of the disease characteristics in 76% of patients at any time point during the course of the disease. This relatively high CTC occurrence in BC should be considered when planning the long-term patient monitoring.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-017-4452-9

DOI: 10.1007/s10549-017-4452-9

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