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author:("fem, Tanja")
1.  Molecular profiling of single circulating tumor cells with diagnostic intention 
EMBO Molecular Medicine  2014;6(11):1371-1386.
Several hundred clinical trials currently explore the role of circulating tumor cell (CTC) analysis for therapy decisions, but assays are lacking for comprehensive molecular characterization of CTCs with diagnostic precision. We therefore combined a workflow for enrichment and isolation of pure CTCs with a non-random whole genome amplification method for single cells and applied it to 510 single CTCs and 189 leukocytes of 66 CTC-positive breast cancer patients. We defined a genome integrity index (GII) to identify single cells suited for molecular characterization by different molecular assays, such as diagnostic profiling of point mutations, gene amplifications and whole genomes of single cells. The reliability of > 90% for successful molecular analysis of high-quality clinical samples selected by the GII enabled assessing the molecular heterogeneity of single CTCs of metastatic breast cancer patients. We readily identified genomic disparity of potentially high relevance between primary tumors and CTCs. Microheterogeneity analysis among individual CTCs uncovered pre-existing cells resistant to ERBB2-targeted therapies suggesting ongoing microevolution at late-stage disease whose exploration may provide essential information for personalized treatment decisions and shed light into mechanisms of acquired drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC4237466  PMID: 25358515
breast cancer; circulating tumor cells; metastasis; single cell analysis
2.  Prognostic relevance of induced and spontaneous apoptosis of disseminated tumor cells in primary breast cancer patients 
BMC Cancer  2014;14:394.
An imbalance between cell proliferation and programmed cell death can result in tumor growth. Although most systemic cytotoxic agents induce apoptosis in tumor cells, a high apoptotic rate in primary breast cancer correlates with poor prognosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence and the prognostic significance of apoptotic disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in the bone marrow (BM) of breast cancer patients who either underwent primary surgery or primary systemic chemotherapy (PST).
A total of 383 primary breast cancer patients with viable DTC in the BM were included into this study. Eighty-five patients were initially treated with primary systemic chemotherapy whereas 298 patients underwent surgery first. Detection of apoptotic DTC were performed by immunocytochemistry using the M30 antibody which detects a neo-epitope expressed after caspase cleavage of cytokeratin 18 during early apoptosis. The median follow up was 44 months (range 10–88 months).
Eighty-two of 298 (27%) primary operated patients and 41 of 85 (48%) patients treated with primary systemic systemic therapy had additional apoptotic DTC (M30 positive). In the neoadjuvant group M30-positive patients were less likely to suffer relapse than those without apoptotic DTC (7% vs. 23% of the events, p = 0.049). In contrast, the detection of apoptotic DTC in patients treated by primary surgery was significantly associated with poor overall survival (5% vs. 12% of the events, p = 0.008).
Apoptotic DTC can be detected in breast cancer patients before and after systemic treatment. The presence of apoptotic DTC in patients with PST may be induced by the cytotoxic agents. Thus, both spontaneous and chemotherapy-induced apoptosis may have different prognostic significance.
PMCID: PMC4055221  PMID: 24894702
Apoptosis; M30; Breast cancer; Survival; Disseminated tumor cell
3.  13th St. Gallen International Breast Cancer Conference 2013: Primary Therapy of Early Breast Cancer Evidence, Controversies, Consensus – Opinion of a German Team of Experts (Zurich 2013) 
Breast Care  2013;8(3):221-229.
The International Consensus Conference on the treatment of primary breast cancer takes place every two years in St. Gallen, Switzerland. The panel in St. Gallen is composed of international experts from different countries. From a German perspective, it seems reasonable to interpret the voting results in the light of AGO-recommendations and S3-guidelines for everyday practice in Germany. Consequently, a team of eight breast cancer experts, of whom two are members of the international St. Gallen panel, commented on the voting results of the St. Gallen Consensus Conference (2013). The main topics at this year's St. Gallen conference were surgical issues of the breast and axilla, radio-therapeutic and systemic treatment options, and the clinical relevance of tumour biology. The clinical utility of multigene assays for supporting individual treatment decisions was also intensively discussed.
PMCID: PMC3728634  PMID: 24415975
St. Gallen Consensus; Early breast cancer; Adjuvant therapy; Multigene signatures; Targeted therapy
4.  Circulating Tumor Cells Predict Survival in Early Average-to-High Risk Breast Cancer Patients 
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been shown to predict reduced survival outcomes in metastatic breast cancer.
CTCs were analyzed in 2026 patients with early breast cancer before adjuvant chemotherapy and in 1492 patients after chemotherapy using the CellSearch System. After immuno-magnetic enrichment for cells expressing the epithelial-cell adhesion molecule, CTCs were defined as nucleated cells expressing cytokeratin and lacking CD45. The patients were followed for a median of 35 months (range = 0–54). Kaplan–Meier analyses and the log-rank test were used for survival analyses. All statistical tests were two-sided.
Before chemotherapy, CTCs were detected in 21.5% of patients (n = 435 of 2026), with 19.6% (n = 136 of 692) of node-negative and 22.4% (n = 299 of 1334) of node-positive patients showing CTCs (P < .001). No association was found with tumor size, grading, or hormone receptor status. After chemotherapy, 22.1% of patients (n = 330 of 1493) were CTC positive. The presence of CTCs was associated with poor disease-free survival (DFS; P < .0001), distant DFS (P < .001), breast cancer-specific survival (P = .008), and overall survival (OS; P = .0002). CTCs were confirmed as independent prognostic markers in multivariable analysis for DFS (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.11; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.49 to 2.99; P < .0001) and OS (HR = 2.18; 95% CI = 1.32 to 3.59; P = .002). The prognosis was worst in patients with at least five CTCs per 30mL blood (DFS: HR = 4.51, 95% CI = 2.59 to 7.86; OS: HR = 3.60, 95% CI = 1.56 to 8.45). The presence of persisting CTCs after chemotherapy showed a negative influence on DFS (HR = 1.12; 95% CI = 1.02 to 1.25; P = .02) and on OS (HR = 1.16; 95% CI = 0.99 to 1.37; P = .06)
These results suggest the independent prognostic relevance of CTCs both before and after adjuvant chemotherapy in a large prospective trial of patients with primary breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4112925  PMID: 24832787
5.  Expression of Stem Cell and Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition Markers in Circulating Tumor Cells of Breast Cancer Patients 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:415721.
Evaluation and characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have become a major focus of translational cancer research. Presence of CTCs predicts worse clinical outcome in early and metastatic breast cancer. Whether all cells from the primary tumor have potential to disseminate and form subsequent metastasis remains unclear. As part of the metastatic cascade, tumor cells lose their cell-to-cell adhesion and undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in order to enter blood circulation. During EMT epithelial antigens are downregulated; thus, such tumor cells might elude classical epithelial marker-based detection. Several researchers postulated that some CTCs express stem cell-like phenotype; this might lead to chemoresistance and enhanced metastatic potential of such cells. In the present review, we discuss current data on EMT and stem cell markers in CTCs of breast cancer and their clinical significance.
PMCID: PMC4034492  PMID: 24895575
6.  Icb-1 gene polymorphism rs1467465 is associated with susceptibility to ovarian cancer 
In this study, we tested the hypothesis that single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of differentiation-associated human gene icb-1 (C1orf38) may be associated with ovarian cancer susceptibility. For this purpose, we compared the genotype and allele frequencies of the SNPs rs1467465 and rs12048235 in a group of 184 ovarian cancer patients with a control group of 184 age- and gender-matched women without any malignancy. Genotype-phenotype association revealed that A allele of SNP rs1467465 was more frequent in ovarian cancer patients than in the control group (0.40 vs. 0.33, OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.013-1.853, p = 0.04). After analysis of allele positivity we observed that A-positive genotypes were more frequent in the ovarian cancer group (0.65 vs. 0.53, OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.072-2.483, p = 0.02). Furthermore, the heterozygous genotype of rs1467465 was found to be more frequent in the patients group (0.50 vs. 0.41, OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.045-2.045, p = 0.03). No significant results were obtained with regard to SNP rs1204823. Our data suggest, that SNP rs1467465 of human gene icb-1 might affect susceptibility to ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4018944  PMID: 24826199
Ovarian cancer; icb-1 gene; Single nucleotide polymorphism; Case control study
7.  International study on inter-reader variability for circulating tumor cells in breast cancer 
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have been studied in breast cancer with the CellSearch® system. Given the low CTC counts in non-metastatic breast cancer, it is important to evaluate the inter-reader agreement.
CellSearch® images (N = 272) of either CTCs or white blood cells or artifacts from 109 non-metastatic (M0) and 22 metastatic (M1) breast cancer patients from reported studies were sent to 22 readers from 15 academic laboratories and 8 readers from two Veridex laboratories. Each image was scored as No CTC vs CTC HER2- vs CTC HER2+. The 8 Veridex readers were summarized to a Veridex Consensus (VC) to compare each academic reader using % agreement and kappa (κ) statistics. Agreement was compared according to disease stage and CTC counts using the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
For CTC definition (No CTC vs CTC), the median agreement between academic readers and VC was 92% (range 69 to 97%) with a median κ of 0.83 (range 0.37 to 0.93). Lower agreement was observed in images from M0 (median 91%, range 70 to 96%) compared to M1 (median 98%, range 64 to 100%) patients (P < 0.001) and from M0 and <3CTCs (median 87%, range 66 to 95%) compared to M0 and ≥3CTCs samples (median 95%, range 77 to 99%), (P < 0.001). For CTC HER2 expression (HER2- vs HER2+), the median agreement was 87% (range 51 to 95%) with a median κ of 0.74 (range 0.25 to 0.90).
The inter-reader agreement for CTC definition was high. Reduced agreement was observed in M0 patients with low CTC counts. Continuous training and independent image review are required.
PMCID: PMC4052944  PMID: 24758318
8.  HER2 Dimerization Inhibitor Pertuzumab – Mode of Action and Clinical Data in Breast Cancer 
Breast Care  2013;8(1):49-55.
The humanized monoclonal antibody pertuzumab prevents the dimerization of HER2 with other HER receptors, in particular the pairing of the most potent signaling heterodimer HER2/HER3, thus providing a potent strategy for dual HER2 inhibition. It binds to the extracellular domain of HER2 at a different epitope than trastuzumab. Pertuzumab and trastuzumab act in a complementary fashion and provide a more complete blockade of HER2-mediated signal transduction than either agent alone. Phase II studies demonstrated that pertuzumab was generally well tolerated as a single agent or in combination with trastuzumab and/or cytotoxic agents, and implied an improved clinical efficacy of the combination of pertuzumab and trastuzumab in early and advanced HER2-positive breast cancer. Results of the pivotal phase III study CLEOPATRA in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer demonstrated that the addition of pertuzumab to first-line combination therapy with docetaxel and trastuzumab significantly prolonged progression-free and overall survival without increasing cardiac toxicity. Currently, the combination of both antibodies is being explored in the palliative setting as well as in the treatment of early HER2-positive breast cancer. Dual HER2 inhibition with the HER2 dimerization inhibitor pertuzumab and trastuzumab may change clinical practice in HER2-positive first-line metastatic breast cancer treatment.
PMCID: PMC3971793  PMID: 24715843
HER2-positive; Dual inhibition; Breast cancer, metastatic; Pertuzumab; Trastuzumab
10.  Quantitative Measurement of Melanoma Spread in Sentinel Lymph Nodes and Survival 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001604.
In this study, Klein and colleagues investigated the impact of minimal cancer sentinel lymph node spread and of increasing numbers of disseminated cancer cells on melanoma-specific survival. The authors found that cancer cell dissemination to the sentinel node is a quantitative risk factor for melanoma death and the best predictor of outcome was a model based on combined quantitative effects of DCCD, tumor thickness, and ulceration.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Sentinel lymph node spread is a crucial factor in melanoma outcome. We aimed to define the impact of minimal cancer spread and of increasing numbers of disseminated cancer cells on melanoma-specific survival.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed 1,834 sentinel nodes from 1,027 patients with ultrasound node-negative melanoma who underwent sentinel node biopsy between February 8, 2000, and June 19, 2008, by histopathology including immunohistochemistry and quantitative immunocytology. For immunocytology we recorded the number of disseminated cancer cells (DCCs) per million lymph node cells (DCC density [DCCD]) after disaggregation and immunostaining for the melanocytic marker gp100. None of the control lymph nodes from non-melanoma patients (n = 52) harbored gp100-positive cells. We analyzed gp100-positive cells from melanoma patients by comparative genomic hybridization and found, in 45 of 46 patients tested, gp100-positive cells displaying genomic alterations. At a median follow-up of 49 mo (range 3–123 mo), 138 patients (13.4%) had died from melanoma. Increased DCCD was associated with increased risk for death due to melanoma (univariable analysis; p<0.001; hazard ratio 1.81, 95% CI 1.61–2.01, for a 10-fold increase in DCCD + 1). Even patients with a positive DCCD ≤3 had an increased risk of dying from melanoma compared to patients with DCCD = 0 (p = 0.04; hazard ratio 1.63, 95% CI 1.02–2.58). Upon multivariable testing DCCD was a stronger predictor of death than histopathology. The final model included thickness, DCCD, and ulceration (all p<0.001) as the most relevant prognostic factors, was internally validated by bootstrapping, and provided superior survival prediction compared to the current American Joint Committee on Cancer staging categories.
Cancer cell dissemination to the sentinel node is a quantitative risk factor for melanoma death. A model based on the combined quantitative effects of DCCD, tumor thickness, and ulceration predicted outcome best, particularly at longer follow-up. If these results are validated in an independent study, establishing quantitative immunocytology in histopathological laboratories may be useful clinically.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Because the skin contains many different cell types, there are many types of skin cancer. The most dangerous type—melanoma—develops when mutations occur in melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin. Less than 5% of skin cancers are melanomas, but melanoma causes most skin cancer deaths. Early signs of melanoma are a change in the appearance of a mole (a pigmented skin blemish) or the development of a new and unusual pigmented lesion. If these signs are noticed and the melanoma is diagnosed before it has spread from the skin into nearby lymph nodes and other tissues, surgery often provides a cure. For advanced melanomas, the outlook is generally poor, although novel therapies may prolong a patient's life.
Why Was This Study Done?
When a person is diagnosed with melanoma, it is important to “stage” the tumor. Knowing the extent and severity of the melanoma helps oncologists plan treatments and estimate their patients' likely outcomes. The detection of isolated melanoma cells in sentinel lymph nodes (the nodes to which cancer cells are most likely to spread from a primary tumor) is included in melanoma staging recommendations. However, finding rare tumor cells in sentinel lymph node biopsies by examining the tissue requires the analysis of many slides from each node removed from the patient and is extremely time-consuming. In this study, the researchers investigate the predictive value of a quantitative immunocytological assay that involves disaggregation of the sentinel node and detection of disseminated cancer cells (DCCs) by immunostaining for gp100 (a marker for melanoma cells). They also use this new assay to examine the effect of increasing numbers of DCCs on melanoma-specific survival.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used routine histopathology and immunocytology to analyze 1,834 sentinel lymph nodes from 1,027 patients with melanoma who underwent sentinel lymph node biopsy at one German hospital. For immunocytology, the researchers recorded the number of gp100-positive cells per million lymph node cells (the DCC density). During follow-up, 138 patients (13.4%) died from melanoma. The results indicated that increased DCC density was associated with an increased risk of death due to melanoma. Specifically, every 10-fold increase in DCC density + 1 was associated with a near doubling of the risk of death from melanoma (a hazard ratio of 1.81). Even patients with three or fewer gp100-positive cells per million lymph node cells had an increased risk of dying from melanoma compared to patients with no gp100-positive cells (hazard ratio 1.63). When other predictors of outcome such as age and primary tumor location were taken into account, DCC density was a stronger predictor of death than histopathology. Finally, a survival model that included tumor thickness, tumor ulceration, and DCC density provided survival prediction superior to that of a model based on the current standard staging recommendations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that quantification of cancer cell dissemination from melanomas to sentinel lymph nodes is feasible and can be combined with other characteristics of the primary tumor to provide an accurate prediction of outcomes for individual patients with melanoma. Notably, the new prediction model identifies a group of patients at high risk of progression for whom the current clinical standard underestimates the risk of death. These patients may benefit from adjuvant therapies, so the new analysis presented in this study may help to stratify patients for clinical trials. Importantly, quantitative immunocytology and the new model, although internally validated in this study, need to be validated in an independent group of patients before they can be considered for routine clinical use. If external validation is successful, quantitative immunocytology, which is much less labor-intensive than histopathology, has the potential to change the routine clinical care of patients with melanoma and probably with other solid tumors, conclude the researchers.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Cancer Institute provides information for patients and professionals on melanoma, cancer staging, and sentinel lymph node biopsy (in English and Spanish)
The nonprofit organization American Cancer Society provides information in several languages on cancer and how it develops and specific information on melanoma, including the AJCC system for staging and personal stories
The UK National Health Service Choices website includes an introduction to cancer and a page on melanoma that includes personal stories
The nonprofit organization Cancer Research UK provides basic information about cancer and detailed information on melanoma
PMCID: PMC3928050  PMID: 24558354
11.  The Role and Clinical Relevance of Disseminated Tumor Cells in Breast Cancer 
Cancers  2014;6(1):143-152.
Tumor cell dissemination is a common phenomenon observed in most cancers of epithelial origin. One-third of breast cancer patients present with disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) in bone marrow at time of diagnosis; these patients, as well as patients with persistent DTCs, have significantly worse clinical outcome than DTC-negative patients. Since DTC phenotype may differ from the primary tumor with regard to ER and HER2 status, reevaluation of predictive markers on DTCs may optimize treatment choices. In the present review, we report on the clinical relevance of DTC detection in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3980614  PMID: 24434543
breast cancer; bone marrow; disseminated tumor cell; circulating tumor cell; tumor cell dissemination
12.  Influence of zoledronic acid on disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow and survival: results of a prospective clinical trial 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:480.
The presence of disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in bone marrow (BM) of breast cancer patients is associated with reduced clinical outcome. Bisphosphonate treatment was shown to eradicate DTC from BM in several studies. This controlled randomized open-label multi-center study aimed to investigate the influence of zoledronic acid (ZOL) on DTC and survival of breast cancer patients (Clinical Trial Registration Number: NCT00172068).
Patients with primary breast cancer and DTC-positive bone marrow were randomized to treatment with ZOL plus adjuvant systemic therapy (n = 40) or adjuvant systemic therapy alone (n = 46) between 03/2002 and 12/2004. DTC were identified by immunocytochemistry using the pancytokeratin antibody A45B/B3 and by cytomorphology. The change in DTC numbers at 12 months and 24 months versus baseline, as well as patient outcomes were evaluated.
86 patients could be included into survival analysis (median follow-up: 88 months, range: 8–108 mths). Patients in the control group were more likely to die during follow-up than those in the ZOL-group (11% vs. 2%, p = 0.106). 15% of patients in the control group presented with relapse whereas only 8% of ZOL group patients developed metastatic or recurrent disease during follow-up (p = 0.205). At 24 months, 16% of patients from the control group were still DTC positive, whereas all patients treated with ZOL became DTC negative (p = 0.032). Patients presenting with persistent DTC 12 months after diagnosis had significantly shorter overall survival (p = 0.011).
Bisphosphonate therapy contributes to eradication of disseminated tumor cells. The positive influence of bisphosphonates on survival in the adjuvant setting may be due to their effects on DTC.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT00172068 [Zoledronic Acid in the Treatment of Breast Cancer With Minimal Residual Disease in the Bone Marrow (MRD-1)].
PMCID: PMC4015285  PMID: 24128322
Breast cancer; Bisphosphonates; Zoledronate; Disseminated tumor cells; Survival
13.  The presence and prognostic impact of apoptotic and nonapoptotic disseminated tumor cells in the bone marrow of primary breast cancer patients after neoadjuvant chemotherapy 
Neoadjuvant systemic therapy of primary breast cancer (PBC) patients offers the possibility to monitor treatment response. However, patients might have metastatic relapse despite achieving a pathologic complete response (pCR). This indicates that local response to therapy must not be representative for systemic treatment efficacy. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare local response with systemic tumor cell dissemination by determining the presence of disseminated tumor cells (DTCs), including apoptotic tumor cells, in the bone marrow (BM) of PBC patients after neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT).
DTCs were detected by immunocytochemistry (pancytokeratin antibody A45-B/B3) and cytomorphology (DTC status). The presence of apoptotic tumor cells was determined by using the M30 antibody (M30 status). This antibody detects a neo-epitope that is expressed only during early apoptosis.
BM aspirates from 400 PBC patients that had completed NACT were eligible for this study. Of these, 167 (42%) patients were DTC positive (DTC status). The M30 status was investigated in 308 patients. Apoptotic (M30-positive) tumor cells were detected in 89 (29%) of these. Whereas the DTC status was not correlated (P = 0.557) to local treatment response (that is, pCR or a clinical complete/partial response), the presence of M30-positive tumor cells was significantly higher in patients that responded to therapy (P = 0.026). Additionally, DTC-positive patients were at an increased risk for disease relapse (hazard ratio, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.11 to 3.15; P = 0.019).
The presence of DTC is independent of therapy response of the primary tumor. As patients that are DTC positive after NACT have an unfavorable outcome, they might benefit from additional systemic treatment.
PMCID: PMC3978634  PMID: 24099325
14.  Circulating tumour cells in breast cancer 
ecancermedicalscience  2013;7:352.
Evaluation of isolated tumour cells in bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood has become a major focus of translational cancer research. The presence of disseminated tumour cells in BM is a common phenomenon observed in 30–40% of primary breast cancer patients and independently predicts reduced clinical outcome. The detection of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in blood might become a desired alternative to the invasive and painful BM biopsy. Recent clinical trials confirmed the feasibility of CTC detection as a robust and reproducible parameter for prognostication in both adjuvant and metastatic setting. The characterisation of CTCs might become an important biomarker for therapy monitoring and help to identify specific targets for novel therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3776645  PMID: 24066018
breast cancer; disseminated tumour cell; circulating tumour cell; prognosis; biomarkers
15.  Dormancy in breast cancer 
Tumor dormancy describes a prolonged quiescent state in which tumor cells are present, but disease progression is not yet clinically apparent. Breast cancer is especially known for long asymptomatic periods, up to 25 years, with no evidence of the disease, followed by a relapse. Factors that determine the cell’s decision to enter a dormant state and that control its duration remain unclear. In recent years, considerable progress has been made in understanding how tumor cells circulating in the blood interact and extravasate into secondary sites and which factors might determine whether these cells survive, remain dormant, or become macrometastases. The mechanisms of tumor cell dormancy are still not clear. Two different hypotheses are currently discussed: tumor cells persist either by completely withdrawing from the cell cycle or by continuing to proliferate at a slow rate that is counterbalanced by cell death. Because dormant disseminated tumor cells may be the founders of metastasis, one hypothesis is that dormant tumor cells, or at least a fraction of them, share stem cell-like characteristics that may be responsible for their long half-lives and their suggested resistance to standard chemotherapy. Therefore, knowledge of the biology of tumor cell dormancy may be the basis from which to develop innovative targeted therapies to control or eliminate this tumor cell fraction. In this review, we discuss biological mechanisms and clinical implications of tumor dormancy in breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3846810  PMID: 24367205
tumor dormancy; disseminated tumor cell; circulating tumor cell; targeted therapy
16.  Clinical application of circulating tumor cells in breast cancer: overview of the current interventional trials 
Cancer Metastasis Reviews  2012;32(1-2):179-188.
In 2004, circulating tumor cells (CTC) enumeration by the CellSearch® technique at baseline and during treatment was reported to be associated with prognosis in metastatic breast cancer patients. In 2008, the first evidence of the impact of CTC detection by this technique on survival of cM0(i+) patients were reported. These findings were confirmed by other non-interventional studies, whereas CTC were also investigated as a surrogate for tumor biology, mainly for HER2 expression/amplification. The aim of this report is to present the current prospective large interventional studies that have been specifically designed to demonstrate that CTC enumeration/characterization may improve the management of breast cancer patients: STIC CTC METABREAST (France) and Endocrine Therapy Index (USA) assess the CTC-guided hormone therapy vs chemotherapy decision in M1 patients; SWOG0500 (USA) and CirCe01 (France) assess the CTC count changes during treatment in metastatic patients; DETECT III (M1 patients, Germany) and Treat CTC (cM0(i+) patients, European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer/Breast International Group) assess the use of anti-HER2 treatments in HER2-negative breast cancer patients selected on the basis of CTC detection/characterization. These trials have different designs in various patient populations but are expected to be the pivotal trials for CTC implementation in the routine management of breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC3655223  PMID: 23129208
Breast cancer; CellSearch®; Circulating tumor cells
17.  Recovery of residual curarization after red blood cell transfusion 
The muscle-relaxing effects of succinylcholine are terminated via hydrolysis by plasma cholinesterase. There are multiple genetic variants of this enzyme and clinical circumstances that might influence the activity of plasma cholinesterase and eventually lead to prolonged neuromuscular blockade following succinylcholine application.
Case Report
Here, we report a parturient woman with atonic bleeding who suffered significant blood loss (hemoglobin 6.0 g·dL−1). For surgical curettage, general anesthesia was performed by using short-acting succinylcholine. By the end of the 105-minute procedure, the patient’s trachea was extubated. After extubation she showed signs of the prolonged neuromuscular blocking action of succinylcholine. At this time, the patient received an AB0-compatible red blood cell transfusion and recovered instantly from neuromuscular blockade. The plasma cholinesterase (3.200 U·L−1) was below the normal range (4.900–12.000 U·L−1). Patient’s blood DNA analysis revealed heterozygously the genetic K variant of plasma cholinesterase. After red blood cell transfusion, serum potassium was elevated (5.7 mmol·L−1; 4.4 mmol·L−1 prior to transfusion).
Pregnancy, blood loss and genetic variation contributed to impairment of plasma cholinesterase. Due to high-speed red blood cell transfusion, hemolytic release of erythrocyte cholinesterase might have terminated the neuromuscular blocking succinylcholine effect.
PMCID: PMC3560601  PMID: 23111747
succinylcholine; plasma cholinesterase; neuromuscular blockade; red blood cell transfusions
18.  Prognostic impact of circulating tumor cells assessed with the CellSearch System™ and AdnaTest Breast™ in metastatic breast cancer patients: the DETECT study 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2012;14(4):R118.
There is a multitude of assays for the detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) but a very limited number of studies comparing the clinical relevance of results obtained with different test methods. The DETECT trial for metastatic breast cancer patients was designed to directly compare the prognostic impact of two commercially available CTC assays that are prominent representatives of immunocytochemical and RT-PCR based technologies.
In total, 254 metastatic breast cancer patients were enrolled in this prospective multicenter trial. CTCs were assessed using both the AdnaTest Breast Cancer and the CellSearch system according to the manufacturers' instructions.
With the CellSearch system, 116 of 221 (50%) evaluable patients were CTC-positive based on a cut-off level at 5 or more CTCs. The median overall survival (OS) was 18.1 months in CTC-positive patients. (95%-CI: 15.1-22.1 months) compared to 27 months in CTC-negative patients (23.5-30.7 months; p<0.001). This prognostic impact for OS was also significant in the subgroups of patients with triple negative, HER2-positive and hormone receptor-positive/HER2-negative primary tumors. The progression free survival (PFS) was not correlated with CTC status in our cohort receiving different types and lines of systemic treatment (p = 0.197). In multivariate analysis, the presence of CTCs was an independent predictor for OS (HR: 2.7, 95%-CI: 1.6-4.2). When the AdnaTest Breast was performed, 88 of 221 (40%) patients were CTC-positive. CTC-positivity assessed by the AdnaTest Breast had no association with PFS or OS.
The prognostic relevance of CTC detection in metastatic breast cancer patients depends on the test method. The present results indicate that the CellSearch system is superior to the AdnaTest Breast Cancer in predicting clinical outcome in advanced breast cancer.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials Registry number ISRCTN59722891.
PMCID: PMC3680931  PMID: 22894854
19.  Antitumor activity of zoledronic acid in primary breast cancer cells determined by the ATP tumor chemosensitivity assay 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:308.
The NeoAzure study has demonstrated that the use of the bisphosphonate zoledronic acid (Zol) in the neoadjuvant setting increases the rate of complete response in primary breast cancer and therefore indicates direct antitumor activity. The purpose of this study was to compare the antitumor effect of Zol with standard chemotherapy in primary breast cancer cells using ATP-tumor chemosensitivity assay (ATP-TCA).
Breast cancer specimens were obtained from patients with breast cancer who underwent primary breast cancer surgery at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tübingen, Germany, between 2006 through 2009. Antitumor effects of Zol, TAC (Docetaxel, Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide) and FEC (5-Fluorouracil, Epirubicin, Cyclophosphamide) were tested in 116 fresh human primary breast cancer specimens using ATP-TCA. ATP-TCA results were analyzed with different cut-off levels for the half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50), for IC90 and for the sensitivity index (IndexSUM). Each single agent or combination was tested at six doubling dilutions from 6.25, 12.5, 25, 50, 100, and 200% of test drug concentrations (TDC) derived from the plasma peak concentrations determined by pharmacokinetic data. The assay was carried out in duplicate wells with positive and negative controls.
The median IndexSUM value was lower for Zol than for the combined regimen FEC (36.8%) and TAC (12.9%), respectively, indicating increased antitumor activity of Zol in primary breast cancer cells. The difference regarding Zol and FEC was significant (p < 0.05). The median IC50 value for Zol (8.03% TDC) was significantly lower than the IC50 values for FEC (33.5% TDC) and TAC (19.3% TDC) treatment (p < 0.05). However, the median IC90 value for Zol (152.5% TDC) was significantly higher than the IC90 value obtained with TAC (49.5% TDC; p < 0.05), but similar to the IC90 value for FEC (180.9% TDC). In addition a significant positive correlation was observed for the IndexSum of Zol and the ER status (p < 0.01).
Zoledronic acid has a strong antitumor effect on primary breast cancer cells in vitro which is equal or superior to commonly used chemotherapeutic regimens for treating breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3416722  PMID: 22824103
20.  Knock down of p53 or its ubiquitin ligase E6AP does not affect the sensitivity of human papillomavirus-positive cervical cancer cells to cisplatin 
The persistent infection with high risk human papillomaviruses (hrHPV) is a necessary risk factor for the development of cervical cancer, which is the second most frequent cancer in women worldwide. Cisplatin-based radiotherapy represents the current treatment regimen. However, the results for advanced and recurrent disease are far from optimal. Since almost all cervical cancers contain wild type (wt) p53, which is degraded by the complex of hrHPV E6 and the ubiquitin ligase E6AP, we addressed if the reconstitution of p53 via silencing of E6AP sensitizes cervical cancer cells towards cisplatin treatment. For this we established and characterized two novel cervical cancer cell lines that contain integrated HPV16 genomes. Long-term established HeLa and SiHa cells and the novel cervical cancer cell lines at low passage numbers were treated with different concentrations of cisplatin. Cell viability was measured by the WST-1 assay. In addition, single cisplatin treatment was combined with the silencing of E6AP or p53. The comparison to HeLa and SiHa cells revealed a higher sensitivity of the novel cell lines to cisplatin treatment, which caused p53 accumulation and transcriptional induction of p21. Silencing of E6AP further increased p53 protein levels, but had no effect on cell viability when combined with cisplatin treatment. Interestingly, silencing of p53 had also no effect. We therefore conclude that reactivation of p53 via silencing of E6AP does not increase the sensitivity of cervical cancer cells towards cisplatin treatment.
PMCID: PMC3365809  PMID: 22679561
Cervical cancer; HPV; cisplatin; p53; E6AP; chemoresistance
21.  Expression of stem cell and epithelial-mesenchymal transition markers in primary breast cancer patients with circulating tumor cells 
The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTC) in breast cancer might be associated with stem cell-like tumor cells which have been suggested to be the active source of metastatic spread in primary tumors. Furthermore, to be able to disseminate and metastasize, CTC must be able to perform epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). We studied the expression of three EMT markers and the stem cell marker ALDH1 in CTC from 502 primary breast cancer patients. Data were correlated with the presence of disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in the bone marrow (BM) and with clinicopathological data of the patients.
A total of 2 × 5 ml of blood was analyzed for CTC with the AdnaTest BreastCancer (AdnaGen AG) for the detection of EpCAM, MUC-1, HER2 and beta-Actin transcripts. The recovered c-DNA was additionally multiplex tested for three EMT markers [TWIST1, Akt2, phosphoinositide kinase-3 (PI3Kα)] and separately for the tumor stem cell marker ALDH1. The identification of EMT markers was considered positive if at least one marker was detected in the sample. Two BM aspirates from all patients were analyzed for DTC by immunocytochemistry using the pan-cytokeratin antibody A45-B/B3.
Ninety-seven percent of 30 healthy donor samples investigated were negative for EMT and 95% for ALDH1 transcripts, respectively. CTC were detected in 97/502 (19%) patients. At least one of the EMT markers was expressed in 29% and ALDH1 was present in 14% of the samples, respectively. Interestingly, 5% of the ALDH1-positive and 18% of the EMT-positive patients were CTC-negative based on the cut-off level determined for CTC-positivity applying the AdnaTest BreastCancer. DTC in the BM were detected in 107/502 (21%) patients and no correlation was found between BM status and CTC positivity (P = 0.41). The presence of CTC, EMT and ALDH1 expression was not correlated to any of the prognostic clinical markers.
Our data indicate that (1) a subset of primary breast cancer patients shows EMT and stem cell characteristics and (2) the currently used detection methods for CTC are not efficient to identify a subtype of CTC which underwent EMT. (3) The clinical relevance on prognosis and therapy response has to be further evaluated in a prospective trial.
PMCID: PMC3496132  PMID: 22264265
22.  Clinical Recommendations of DEGRO and AGO on Preferred Standard Palliative Radiotherapy of Bone and Cerebral Metastases, Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression, and Leptomeningeal Carcinomatosis in Breast Cancer 
Breast Care  2010;5(6):401-407.
To provide guidance for clinical practice on preferred standard palliative radiotherapy (RT) of different sites of metastasis for breast cancer patients based on current published evidence complemented by expert opinion.
The breast cancer expert panel of the German Society for Radiation Oncology (DEGRO) and members of the Working Party of Gynecologic Oncology (AGO) Breast Committee formulated recommendations based on the panel's interpretation of the level of evidence referring to the criteria of evidence-based medicine added to the AGO grades of recommendation.
For different types and sites of metastasis, distinct therapeutic goals (alleviation of symptoms, pain relief, local tumor control, prevention or improvement of neurological deficits, stabilization of the spine or other bones) require complex approaches considering individual factors (i.e. life expectancy, tumor progression at other sites). With regard to different therapeutic goals, different dose concepts and fractionation schedules, and single-versus multi-fraction palliative RT should be adapted individually.
RT is an effective tool in palliation treatment of bone metastasis (BM), cerebral metastasis (CM) and metastatic spinal cord compression (MSCC), or leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (LC) and plays a central role in an interdisciplinary approach. Preferred technique, targeting, and different dose schedules are described in detail in the DEGRO guidelines, which are also integrated in the updated 2010 AGO recommendations.
PMCID: PMC3076353  PMID: 21494406
Metastatic breast cancer; Palliative radiation therapy; Bone metastasis; Cerebral metastasis; Metastatic spinal cord compression; Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis
23.  The PACOVAR-trial: A phase I/II study of pazopanib (GW786034) and cyclophosphamide in patients with platinum-resistant recurrent, pre-treated ovarian cancer 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:453.
The prognosis of patients with recurrent, platinum-resistant epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is poor. There is no standard treatment available. Emerging evidence suggests a major role for antiangiogenic treatment modalities in EOC, in particular in combination with the metronomic application of low dose chemotherapy. The novel, investigational oral antiangiogenic agent pazopanib targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR), platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) and c-kit is currently being studied in different tumour types and is already used as first line therapy in recurrent renal cell carcinoma. A combined therapy consisting of pazopanib and metronomic oral cyclophosphamide may offer a well-tolerable treatment option to patients with recurrent, pretreated EOC.
This study is designed as a multicenter phase I/II trial evaluating the optimal dose for pazopanib (phase I) as well as activity and tolerability of a combination regimen consisting of pazopanib and metronomic cyclophosphamide in the palliative treatment of patients with recurrent, platinum-resistant, pre-treated ovarian cancer (phase II). The patient population includes patients with histologically or cytologically confirmed diagnosis of EOC, cancer of the fallopian tube or peritoneal cancer which is platinumresistant or -refractory. Patients must have measurable disease according to RECIST criteria and must have failed available standard chemotherapy. Primary objectives are determination of the optimal doses for pazopanib (phase I) and the overall response rate according to RECIST criteria (phase II). Secondary objectives are time to progression, overall survival, safety and tolerability. The treatment duration is until disease progression or intolerability of study drug regimen (with a maximum of 13 cycles up to 52 weeks per subject).
The current phase I/II trial shall clarify the potential of the multitargeting antiangiogenic tyrosinkinaseinhibitor GW 786034 (pazopanib) in combination with oral cyclophosphamide as salvage treatment in patients with recurrent, pretreated ovarian cancer.
Trial registration NCT01238770
PMCID: PMC3224456  PMID: 22014006
25.  Prospective evaluation of serum tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 and carbonic anhydrase IX in correlation to circulating tumor cells in patients with metastatic breast cancer 
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) reflect aggressive tumor behavior by hematogenous tumor cell dissemination. The tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 1 (TIMP-1) plays a role in tissue invasion and is also involved in angiogenesis, abrogation of apoptosis and in chemoresistance. Carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX) is a metalloenzyme involved in cell adhesion, growth and survival of tumor cells. The aim of the study was to investigate whether serum concentrations of TIMP-1 and CAIX are associated with the detection of CTC in metastatic breast cancer.
Blood was obtained in a prospective multicenter setting from 253 patients with metastatic breast cancer at the time of disease progression. Serum TIMP-1 and CAIX were determined using commercial ELISA-kits (Oncogene Science). CTC were detected with the CellSearch™ system (Veridex).
Five or more CTCs were detected in 122 patients out of 245 evaluable patients (49.8%). Out of 253 metastatic patients 70 (28%) had serum TIMP-1 levels above 454 ng/mL. Serum CAIX was elevated above 506 ng/mL in 90 (35%) patients. Both serum markers had prognostic significance. Median progression free survival (PFS) was 7.2 months with elevated TIMP-1 vs. 11.4 months with non-elevated levels (p < 0.01). OS was 11.5 vs. 19.1 months (p < 0.01). Median PFS was 7.5 months with elevated CAIX vs. 11.7 months with non-elevated levels (p < 0.01), overall survival (OS) was 13.4 months vs. 19.1 months (p < 0.01). In patients with five or more CTCs, serum levels were above the cut-off for CAIX in 47% vs. 25% in those with less than five CTCs (p = 0.01). For TIMP-1, 37% patients with five or more CTCs had elevated serum levels and 17% of patients with less than five CTCs (p = 0.01). Including TIMP-1, CAIX, CTC and established prognostic factors in the multivariate analysis, the presence of CTCs, the therapy line and elevated CAIX remained independent predictors of OS.
Elevated serum levels of the invasion markers TIMP-1 and CAIX in metastatic breast cancer are prognostic markers and are associated with the presence of CTCs. Whether increased secretion of TIMP-1 and/or CAIX might directly contribute to tumor cell dissemination remains to be elucidated in further investigations.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN59722891
PMCID: PMC3236335  PMID: 21745383

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