Cancer Communications
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Original article
The prognostic and therapeutic implications of circulating tumor cell phenotype detection based on epithelial–mesenchymal transition markers in the first-line chemotherapy of HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer
Xiuwen Guan, Fei MaEmail author, Chunxiao Li, Shiyang Wu, Shangying Hu, Jiefen Huang, Xiaoying Sun, Jiayu Wang, Yang Luo, Ruigang Cai, Ying Fan, Qiao Li, Shanshan Chen, Pin Zhang, Qing Li and Binghe Xu
Department of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Center/National Clinical Research Center for Cancer/Cancer Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, No. 17, Panjiayuan Nanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100021, P. R. China

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is implicated in the metastatic process and presents a challenge to epithelial cell adhesion molecule-based detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs), which have been demonstrated to be a prognostic indicator in metastatic breast cancer. Although evidence has indicated that heterogeneity of CTCs based on EMT markers is associated with disease progression, no standard recommendations have been established for clinical practice. This study aimed to evaluate the prognostic significance of dynamic CTC detection based on EMT for metastatic breast cancer patients.
We enrolled 108 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-negative metastatic breast cancer patients from the prospective phase III CAMELLIA study and applied the CanPatrol CTC enrichment technique to identify CTC phenotypes (including epithelial CTCs, biphenotypic epithelial/mesenchymal CTCs, and mesenchymal CTCs) in peripheral blood samples. Receiver operating characteristic curve analyses of total CTC count and the proportion of mesenchymal CTCs for predicting the 1-year progression-free survival (PFS) rate were conducted to determine the optimal cut-off values, and Kaplan–Meier analysis and Cox proportional hazards regression analysis were performed to investigate the prognostic value of the cut-off values of both total CTC count and the proportion of mesenchymal CTCs in combination.
For predicting the 1-year PFS rate, the optimal cut-off value of total CTC count was 9.5 (Area under the curve [AUC] = 0.538, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.418–0.657), and that of the proportion of mesenchymal CTCs was 10.7% (AUC = 0.581, 95% CI = 0.463–0.699). We used the two cut-off values in combination to forecast PFS in which the total CTC count was equaled to or exceeded 10/5 mL with the proportion of mesenchymal CTCs surpassed 10.7%. Patients who met the combined criteria had significantly shorter median PFS than did those who did not meet the criteria (6.2 vs. 9.9 months, P =0.010). A nomogram was constructed based on the criteria and significant clinicopathological characteristics with a C-index of 0.613 (P = 0.010).
The criteria, which combine the total CTC count and the proportion of mesenchymal CTCs, may be used to monitor therapeutic resistance and predict prognosis in patients with metastatic breast cancer.
Cancer Communications   Epub date: 1/3/2019   doi:10.1186/s40880-018-0346-4   [ PDF Full-text ]   

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