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Circulating Tumor Cells Can Provide Genomic Snapshot of Breast Cancer, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 09, 2014 08:09 AM EDT

Tumor cells circulating in the blood of metastatic patients could give as accurate a genomic read-out as tumor biopsies, a new study has shown. 

"Counting the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) can tell us whether a patient's cancer is aggressive, or whether it is stable and responding to therapy," said the article's first author Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University, in the press release.

"Our work suggests that these cancer cells in the blood also accurately reflect the genetic status of the parent tumor or its metastases, potentially giving us a new and easy to source of genomic information to guide treatment."

Researchers compared tissue biopsies surgically removed from two patients with inflammatory breast cancer with circulating tumor cells and found that in several of the CTCs collected, the mutations matched with the tumor biopsy, however in one patient, some of circulating tumor cells had an additional mutation. 

 "Since inflammatory breast cancer is a very rapidly changing disease, we think this additional mutation may have been acquired after the original surgical biopsy was taken," Dr. Fernandez added. 

The study has been published in the journal Breast Cancer Research.

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