Identification of Atypical Circulating Tumor Cells with Prognostic Value in Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients.
Circulating tumor cells have a strong potential as a quasi-non-invasive tool for setting up a precision medicine strategy for cancer patients. Using a second-generation « filtration-based » technology to isolate CTCs, the Screencell™ technology (Sarcelles, France), we performed a large and simultaneous analysis of all atypical circulating tumor cells (aCTCs) isolated from the blood of metastatic breast cancer (mBC) patients. We correlated their presence with clinicopathological and survival data. We included 91 mBC patients from the PERMED-01 study. The median number of aCTCs was 8.3 per mL of blood. Three subsets of aCTCs, absent from controls, were observed in patients: single (s-aCTCs), circulating tumor micro-emboli (CTM), and giant-aCTCs (g-aCTCs). The presence of g-aCTCs was associated with shorter progression free survival and overall survival. This study highlights the heterogeneity of aCTCs in mBC patients both at the cytomorphological and molecular levels. In addition, it suggests the usefulness of the g-aCTC subset as a prognostic factor and a potential stratification tool to treat late-stage mBC patients and improve their chances of benefiting from early clinical trials.