Liquid biopsy may alter treatment of metastatic breast cancer

A new study has found that a form of liquid biopsy—circulating tumor cells (CTCs)—may be a key technique for creating a staging system to significantly alter the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). 

Researchers from Menarini Silicon Biosystems in Italy found a CTC count could be used to identify a specific group of MBC patients who would benefit from a more conservative form of therapy—possibly lowering costs for the payers and easing side effects for patients, according to a prepared statement.

CTCs are cancer cells that travel through the bloodstream and lymphatic system with the help of advanced cancers. A liquid biopsy provides a minimally invasive alternative to solid tumor biopsy, typically when potential cancer tissue is not accessible.

“Our study found that there are 60 percent of MBC patients for which the disease may not be immediately aggressive,” said study co-author Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, associate director of Translational Research at Robert H. Laurie Cancer Center at Northwestern University.

The new study utilized the Cellsearch blood test in what was described as the largest CTCs pooled analysis to date. It will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, taking place June 1-5 in Chicago.

 “This analysis suggests that CTC testing can complement standard imaging studies and provide an even more accurate and sensitive method for staging patients with advanced breast cancer,” said Cristofanilli in the release.