Categorical versus continuous circulating tumor cell enumeration as early surrogate marker for therapy response and prognosis during docetaxel therapy in metastatic prostate cancer patients

Mark Thalgott, Brigitte Rack, Matthias Eiber, Michael Souvatzoglou, Matthias M Heck, Caroline Kronester, Ulrich Andergassen, Victoria Kehl, Bernd J Krause, Jurgen E Gschwend, Margitta Retz, Roman Nawroth
BMC Cancer 2015, 15: 458

BACKGROUND: Circulating tumor cell (CTCs) counts might serve as early surrogate marker for treatment efficacy in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients. We prospectively assessed categorical and continuous CTC-counts for their utility in early prediction of radiographic response, progression-free (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in mCRPC patients treated with docetaxel.

METHODS: CTC-counts were assessed in 122 serial samples, as continuous or categorical (<5 vs. ≥5 CTCs) variables, at baseline (q0) and after 1 (q1), 4 (q4) and 10 (q10) cycles of docetaxel (3-weekly, 75 mg/m2) in 33 mCRPC patients. Treatment response (TR) was defined as non-progressive (non-PD) and progressive disease (PD), by morphologic RECIST or clinical criteria at q4 and q10. Binary logistic and Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were used as statistical methods.

RESULTS: Categorical CTC-count status predicted PD at q4 already after one cycle (q1) and after 4 cycles (q4) of chemotherapy with an odds ratio (OR) of 14.9 (p=0.02) and 18.0 (p=0.01). Continuous CTC-values predicted PD only at q4 (OR 1.04, p=0.048). Regarding PFS, categorical CTC-counts at q1 were independent prognostic markers with a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.85 (95% CI 1.1-13.8, p=0.04) whereas early continuous CTC-values at q1 failed significance (HR 1.02, 95% CI 0.99-1.05, p=0.14). For OS early categorical and continuous CTC-counts were independent prognostic markers at q1 with a HR of 3.0 (95% CI 1.6-15.7, p=0.007) and 1.02 (95% CI 1.0-1.040, p=0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: Categorical CTC-count status is an early independent predictor for TR, PFS and OS only 3 weeks following treatment initiation with docetaxel whereas continuous CTC-counts were an inconsistent surrogate marker in mCRPC patients. For clinical practice, categorical CTC-counts may provide complementary information towards individualized treatment strategies with early prediction of treatment efficacy and optimized sequential treatment.

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