A group of scientists led by Anthony Lucci, University of Texas, United States, US, has found that routine blood tests can quickly unmask tumour cells in patients, thereby increasing the chances of early treatment and reducing fatalities. Lucci and his team found out that if circulating tumour cells, CTCs, can be found in the blood of patients at an early stage of the disease. The findings have been published in The Lancet Oncology.
The researchers, all from the Department of Surgical Oncology, got about 300 patients with operable breast cancer and identified CTCs in the blood sample of a quarter of the study group. They found that the presence of the CTCs in the blood stream could determine if the patient would progress to end stage and even the overall survival of the patient.
“These studies identified that both progression-free and overall survival were worse in patients with one or more circulating tumour cells. The growing body of published work, including our study, suggests that assessment of circulating tumour cells might provide important prognostic information in these patients. If the presence of circulating tumour cells were to contribute independently to the currently available prognostic factors, this information might be useful in disease staging and in identifying patients who might benefit from additional therapies,” he said.
With consolidating studies, Lucci and his team hopes that CTC assessment would be included by world health authorities in guidelines for the care of cancer patients