The presence of cancer cells in autografts of breast cancer patients has been described to have prognostic value or directly lead to relapse. Previously, we demonstrated that apheresis products (APs) collected after induction chemotherapy have a significantly lower likelihood of tumor cell contamination. Here, we examine the prognostic value of micrometastases in autografts. Data from 83 patients with breast cancer treated with autologous blood stem cell transplantation were analyzed. Pancytokeratin-FITC conjugated antibodies were used to detect contaminating breast cancer cells in the APs. Progression and survival data analyzed on the basis of three or fewer cancer cells showed no significant differences in outcomes. Of the 83 patients, 11 had more than three cancer cells detectable in their APs. In total, 72 patients were shown to have less than three cells detectable. When patients with more than three cells were compared to patients with 0-3, we found statistically significant differences in progression-free survival. We also found a significant difference in overall survival (OS) between the two groups. No difference was observed in OS since the time of diagnosis. We conclude that patients with more than three contaminating cells in their APs have micrometastases and represent a poor prognosis group.
- Breast cancer
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