Pancreatic cancer patients with circulating tumor cells tend to have worse outcomes: Study

February 16, 2016

In addition, the presence of circulating tumor cells correlated with patient outcomes. Patients with circulating tumor cells at study entry had a median overall survival of 191 days compared with 269 days for those without circulating tumor cells, although the difference did not reach statistical significance in the small study population. A similar trend appeared for progression-free survival, with a median of 85 days for those with detectable circulating tumor cells compared with 137 days for those without.

Patients who had circulating tumor cells at either point after therapy initiation also trended towards poorer overall or progression-free survival.

Interestingly, the investigators found that some circulating tumor cells may be worse than others. Patients whose circulating tumor cells expressed the MUC1 protein, which has been associated with more aggressive pancreatic cancer, trended towards a shorter median overall survival than those whose circulating tumor cells did not express the protein, at 85.5 and 310 days, respectively.

"We find that having circulating tumor cells is bad," Negin says. "But the more interesting story that appears to be coming out of our study is that not all circulating tumor cells are equal. The MUC1 cells seem particularly bad, suggesting that there is a difference in the biology of these tumors and providing some insight into how these tumors function."

Source: Fox Chase Cancer Center