Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 355–364 | Cite as

The significance of circulating epithelial cells in Breast Cancer patients by a novel negative selection method

  • Katherine H. Rak TkaczukEmail author
  • Olga Goloubeva
  • Nancy S. Tait
  • Faye Feldman
  • Ming Tan
  • Zhao-Ping Lum
  • Stephen A. Lesko
  • David A. Van Echo
  • Paul O. P. Ts’o
Clinical Trial


Purpose: A negative selection method for the enumeration and characterization of circulating epithelial/cancer cells (CCC) in Breast Cancer (BC) patients is described. This manual procedure yields reproducible results of high sensitivity and selectivity suitable for research laboratories. Patients and methods: We conducted a prospective blood sampling study in 105 women with stage 1–4 BC attending clinics at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center to define the prevalence of CCC utilizing our sensitive double gradient centrifugation and magnetic cell sorting CCC detection and enumeration method. CCC were isolated and enumerated from 15 to 20 ml of venous blood drawn before the start of systemic therapy and periodically thereafter for up to 24 months. One or more CCC/sample was considered a positive result. Results: We analyzed 487samples for the presence of CCC; the median number of samples/patient was 4 (range 1–8). CCC were detected in 56% of patients, 19%—stage 1; 43%—stage 2; 46%—stage 3; 83%—stage 4. The probability of being positive for the presence of CCC is significantly associated with the stage of cancer (P < 0.0001). The frequency of CCC positive patients and samples increased with the advancing stage of disease. Presence of more than 10 CCC/sample was associated with the decreased survival and increased probability of having metastatic disease P = 0.001. Conclusions: Increasing number of CCC/sample correlates with the adverse outcome and poorer survival (P < 0.0001). Our CCC test based on the negative selection procedure may provide valuable prognostic information.


Breast Cancer Stage 1-4 Circulating epithelial cells Negative selection method Prospective blood sampling study Association of numbers of epithelial cells with survival 



The work done at CCC Diagnostics LLC is supported by NCI Grant #CA081903.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine H. Rak Tkaczuk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Olga Goloubeva
    • 1
  • Nancy S. Tait
    • 1
  • Faye Feldman
    • 1
  • Ming Tan
    • 1
  • Zhao-Ping Lum
    • 2
  • Stephen A. Lesko
    • 2
  • David A. Van Echo
    • 2
  • Paul O. P. Ts’o
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer CenterBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.CCC Diagnostics, LLCBaltimoreUSA

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