Would a test for circulating tumor cells predict future metastasis?

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Question from LauraT: Do you anticipate a test for circulating tumor cells in a non-metastatic setting? I had considerable residual disease (triple-negative breast cancer) after neoadjuvant chemo (tumor removed by surgery). Would a test for CTCs help in predicting metastasis or at least give us more information to determine if scans should be ordered?
Answers - Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. Identifying circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in and of themselves at this point would have no therapeutic benefit as metastatic breast cancer is treated when it becomes identified and symptomatic. It is unknown whether CTCs would predict the recurrence of breast cancer, and generally scans looking for distant disease are not ordered routinely unless a patient has a specific set of symptoms that would warrant investigation. Although there may be trials looking at CTCs and what the presence of them may mean, currently we are not using this specific technology outside clinical trials.
Andrew D. Seidman, M.D. Unfortunately, many promising diagnostic tools are accepted as being proven to be useful ahead of the definitive data that either prove or disprove this. I currently am not convinced that measuring circulating tumor cells improves an outcome based on any and all available data.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Updates From the 2010 ASCO Annual Meeting featured Andrew Seidman, M.D. and Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answering your questions about the latest updates on breast cancer risk, screening techniques, treatment options, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in June 2010.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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