• Mu Z, Wang C, Ye Z, Austin L, Civan J, Hyslop T, Palazzo JP, Jaslow R, Li B, Myers RE, Jiang J, Xing J, Yang H, Cristofanilli M. Prospective assessment of the prognostic value of circulating tumor cells and their clusters in patients with advanced-stage breast cancer. Breast cancer research and treatment. 2015 Dec;154(3). 563-71. PMID: 26573830 [PubMed].


The enumeration of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) provides important prognostic values in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Recent studies indicate that individual CTCs form clusters and these CTC-clusters play an important role in tumor metastasis. We aimed to assess whether quantification of CTC-clusters provides additional prognostic value over quantification of individual CTCs alone. In 115 prospectively enrolled advanced-stage (III and IV) breast cancer patients, CTCs and CTC-clusters were counted in 7.5 ml whole blood using the CellSearch system at baseline before first-line therapy. The individual and joint effects of CTC and CTC cluster counts on patients' progression-free survival (PFS) were analyzed using Cox proportional hazards modeling. Of the 115 patients, 36 (31.3 %) had elevated baseline CTCs (≥5 CTCs/7.5 ml) and 20 (17.4 %) had CTC-clusters (≥2 CTCs/7.5 ml). Patients with elevated CTCs and CTC-clusters both had worse PFS with a hazard ratio (HR) of 2.76 [95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.57-4.86, P log-rank = 0.0005] and 2.83 (1.48-5.39, P log-rank = 0.001), respectively. In joint analysis, compared with patients with