SAB Member Dr. Mukhtar Co-authors Journal Article About CTCs in ILC

LBCA Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Rita Mukhtar co-authored a recently published article in the npj Breast Cancer journal titled, “Circulating tumor cells in early lobular versus ductal breast cancer and their associations with prognosis.” Rita provided the following summary of this important study in lay terms.

“In this study, we wanted to determine whether levels of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the blood are different between patients with non-metastatic invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) compared to those with non-metastatic invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). We also determined whether the levels of tumor cells in the bone marrow (called disseminated tumor cells, or DTCs) differ among ILC and IDC patients.

Some patients with non-metastatic (stage I-III) breast cancer have detectable tumor cells in the blood and/or bone marrow. Many previous researchers have shown that this may be an indicator of having a higher risk of recurrence. Since ILC lacks E-cadherin and the cells are less adhesive to one another, we wondered if patients with ILC would have higher levels of CTCs or DTCs compared to patients with IDC.

We analyzed data from a prior study called TIPPING, in which women with stage I-III breast cancer volunteered to give blood and undergo bone marrow biopsies prior to surgical treatment. We found that approximately 20% of all patients had detectable CTCs, and that the average number of CTCs in the blood was indeed higher in patients with ILC compared to IDC. This was true even when adjusting for stage, meaning that among each stage, CTC levels remained higher in the ILC group than the IDC group. Interestingly, this was not true among patients who received neoadjuvant therapy prior to measuring CTCs. Additionally, we found no difference in the level of DTC’s between those with ILC and IDC.  Finally, we learned that the method of CTC detection can influence the results.

These findings could mean that when we are interpreting results of liquid biopsies that assess CTCs, we may need to take into account tumor histology before using a specific cut-off to make clinical decisions. We need more data to understand how to utilize tests results like CTCs especially for those with non-metastatic ILC.”

To read more research from the LBCA SAB click here.

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