Photo: Blood sample is taken from a patient
Another blood test besides PSA
screening could provide insight into
prostate cancer; © Picture Disk

The study might pave the way for a test to be used to better tailor treatments and, in this way, hopefully extend the survival of men with aggressive forms of metastatic prostate cancer. Lead researcher Johann de Bono says: “CTC testing, used in conjunction with the existing prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, may allow doctors to more accurately evaluate the effect of treatment on a patient’s tumour.”

Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are cancer cells that have broken away from an existing tumour and have entered into the bloodstream. The presence of these cells in the blood provides valuable insights into disease progression. The study has shown that the monitoring and detection of CTCs can provide valuable information on the patient’s prognosis. Further studies are taking place to evaluate if the CTC test may be used to allow doctors to make treatment decisions more quickly and more reliably for the benefit of patients.

The study involved 231 patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Sixty-five clinical centres in Europe and the U.S. took part in the study. The patients underwent monthly CTC monitoring to measure the level of circulating tumour cells in the blood. A count of more than five CTC per 7.5 millilitre of blood was seen as an indicator towards an “unfavourable” prognosis whereas a count of less than five CTC per 7.5 milliltre was considered “favourable”. This was compared with the progression of the metastatic prostate cancer tumours.

The test has already been incorporated into several prostate cancer drug trials that are taking place at The Institute and The Royal Marsden. It has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States to determine the prognosis of patients with metastatic breast, colorectal or prostate cancer.; Source: The Institute of Cancer Research