Liquid biopsy could help optimize treatment in early breast cancer patients

Liquid biopsy can be used to evaluate tumor evolution and identify chemo-resistant tumor cells (CTC) in HER2 negative early breast cancer patients, according to results from the pilot phase of a trial sponsored by EORTC published in the European Journal of Cancer.

“The detection of chemo-resistant tumor cells in early breast cancer patients has been associated with a worse long-term prognosis,” says Dr Michail Ignatiadis from Institut Jules Bordet, the principal investigator for the TreatCTC trial. “Systematically testing these women using a liquid biopsy approach may therefore allow them to benefit from new therapeutic approaches to improve their long-term treatment outcomes.”

These results are the outcome of the pilot phase of the Treat CTC trial, which currently involves 81 hospitals across Europe, targeting HER2 negative patients that have completed neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy and surgery. The pilot phase reports on the first 350 screened patients, of which 39 (11%) have liquid biopsies that show the presence of chemoresistant CTCs, which have been associated with shorter disease-free survival and overall survival. “Getting consistent readings of liquid biopsy results proved to be one of the most challenging parts of this pilot,” said Vassilis Golfinopoulos, Medical Director at EORTC. “Rigorous follow-up and regular trainings were centrally coordinated by the EORTC to harmonize results across the network in order to validate this testing methodology.”

The pilot provides important insights into the use of liquid biopsy methods to monitor tumor evolution to evaluate additional treatment options in non-metastatic patients.  It establishes recommended methodologies for quality assurance in clinical testing and validation of liquid biopsies and demonstrates the feasibility of real-time screening of early breast cancer patients for CTCs in an international, multi-lab setting.

The study is currently open and recruiting in 5 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Austria and UK) and eighty-one sites.


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