Breast cancer-specific mRNA transcripts presence in peripheral blood after adjuvant chemotherapy predicts poor survival among high-risk breast cancer patients treated with high-dose chemotherapy with peripheral blood stem cell support

Miguel Quintela-Fandino, Joaquín Martínez López, Ricardo Hitt, Soledad Gamarra, Antonio Jimeno, Rosa Ayala, Javier Hornedo, Cecilia Guzman, Florinda Gilsanz, Hernán Cortés-Funes
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2006 August 1, 24 (22): 3611-8

PURPOSE: To study the prognostic significance of the presence of breast cancer-specific mRNA transcripts in peripheral blood (PB), defined by serial analysis of gene expression, in high-risk breast cancer (HRBC) patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy after receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.

METHODS: From 1994 to 2000, 84 HRBC patients (median age, 44 years; > 10 nodes; 74%) received adjuvant chemotherapy (fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophosphamide for six cycles [83%] or doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel) before undergoing one course of cyclophosphamide plus thiotepa plus carboplatin (STAMP V). Radiotherapy or hormone therapy was administered whenever indicated. Aliquots of apheresis-mononuclear blood cells were frozen from each patient. mRNA was isolated using an automatic nucleic acid extractor based on the magnetic beads technology; reverse transcription was performed using random hexamers. Cytokeratin 19, HER-2, P1B, PS2, and EGP2 transcripts were quantified to B-glucuronidase by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using a linear DNA probe marked with a quencher and reporter fluorophores used in RT-PCR. Presence of PB micrometastases, estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor status, tumor size, age, tumor grade, number of nodes affected, and treatment with paclitaxel were included in the statistical analysis.

RESULTS: Median follow-up was 68.3 months (range, 6 months to 103 months). Forty-seven relapses (56%) and 35 deaths (41.7%) were registered. Both tumor size and presence of micrometastases reached statistical significance according to the Cox multivariate model. Relapse hazard ratio (HR) for those patients with PB micrometastases was 269% (P = .006); death HR, 300% (P = .011). Time relapse was 53 months longer for patients without micrometastases: 31.3 v 84.2 months (P = .021).

CONCLUSION: PB micrometastases presence after adjuvant chemotherapy predicts both relapse and death more powerful than classical factors in HRBC patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy. Micrometastases search using a gene panel appears to be a more accurate procedure than classical approaches involving only one or two genes.

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