Detection of Bcl-2 and apoptosis in circulating tumor cells during treatment of metastatic breast cancer

J.B. Smerage, G.V. Doyle, G.T. Budd, M. Repollet, C. Miller, L.W. Terstappen, D.F. Hayes

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractOther research output


    Background: Induction of apoptosis is a common effect of many new and existing drugs, and Bcl-2 expression is associated with resistance to apoptosis. CTCs are a minimally invasive blood test and are a source of tumor cells that can be obtained serially during therapy. Monitoring Bcl-2, apoptosis, and other markers in CTCs may be useful endpoints in trials of new and targeted agents. The goal of this pilot study is to estimate Bcl-2 expression and apoptosis in CTCs from pts being treated for metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

    Methods: Whole blood was collected from pts initiating therapy for MBC at baseline, post-treatment (24, 48, or 72 hours), and 3–4 weeks. Samples were split into 3 × 7.5ml fractions. CTCs were isolated and enumerated using the CellTracks and CellSpotter systems. CTCs were defined as DAPI+, cytokeratin+, CD45-, with a cellular morphology. Apoptosis defined by positive staining with MAb M30. Bcl-2 status defined by staining with MAb Bcl-2–100.

    Results: 39/81 patients (49%) had ≥5 CTCs at baseline. 25% had ≥5 CTCs at 3–4 weeks. 35% of pts with CTCs had positive Bcl-2 staining in 91–100% of their CTCs (highest decile). Other pts were equally distributed across the remaining Bcl-2 deciles. At baseline, apoptosis correlates with CTC number. In samples with 1–4 CTCs, 80% of cells were apoptotic. For 5–49 CTCs, 48% were apoptotic; for 50–99, 34% were apoptotic; for 100–500, 28% were apoptotic; and for >500, 22% were apoptotic. Bcl-2 staining was inversely correlated with apoptosis staining. Pts were risk stratified by changes in CTC number after one cycle of therapy, and apoptosis increased with improving prognostic groups. One pt had markedly elevated CTCs of >20,000. The cells were remarkably 100% Bcl-2 positive and M30 negative (1% staining).

    Conclusions: These data confirm the prevalence of CTCs seen in the pivotal trial of CTCs in MBC (Cristofanilli NEJM 2004) and provide novel observations for Bcl-2 expression and apoptosis in CTCs. Higher Bcl-2 expression appears to correlate with decreased apoptosis. High fractions of apoptotic cells correlate with lower numbers of CTCs, which is associated with a better prognosis. Analysis of the post-treatment (24, 48, or 72 hour) samples and correlation of markers with progression free survival are ongoing and will be presented.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of clinical oncology
    Issue number15_suppl.
    Publication statusPublished - 2008
    Event44th American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting 2008 - Chicago, United States
    Duration: 30 May 20083 Jun 2008
    Conference number: 44


    Dive into the research topics of 'Detection of Bcl-2 and apoptosis in circulating tumor cells during treatment of metastatic breast cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this