The value of case reports in rare oncological scenarios: mixed method analysis of colorectal metastases from breast cancer

I. D. Nagtegaal*, J. A.A. Snoek, P. Bult, J. Tol, S. Siesling, Q. J. Voorham, N. Hugen

*Corresponding author for this work

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With improved survival of cancer patients, we increasingly encounter infrequent metastatic locations. While for the common metastatic locations both prognostic information as well as evidence-based guidelines are available, for rare locations we have to rely on anecdotal case reports, the value of which is currently unknown. Therefore, we performed a systemic literature review and compare the results with a large national real-life cohort focussed on breast cancer patients with colorectal metastases. We performed a systematic literature search for breast cancer patients with colorectal metastases. Autopsy studies were excluded. Data on stage, histological factors, treatment and outcome were extracted. All identified cases were analysed as individual patients. The real-life cohort was extracted from the nationwide Dutch pathology databank. Linkage with the Netherlands Cancer Registry provided clinical characteristics, treatment and outcome data. Survival analyses and univariate regression were performed to identify relevant features for future treatment decisions. We identified 308 patients from 207 studies in the literature, and 454 patients in the real-life cohort. Colorectal metastases were the first metastatic event in 42.5% and 47.0% respectively. Cohorts were comparable for age, gender, location and hormone status, but differed in tumour type, stage and treatment. The time to colorectal metastases was similar in both cohorts (median of 68 months), and was dependent on presence of other metastases, nodal status, and primary breast surgery. The median overall survival after development of colorectal metastases was 20.6 months (95%CI 18.0–23.1 months). Despite a potential publication bias and lack of complete data for patients in the case report series, we have shown that an extensive systematic review can provide data that are comparable to real-life data, which can be used for decision-making and informing patients. Colorectal metastases are a late event in breast cancer patients, that is not associated with a detrimental survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-216
Number of pages12
JournalClinical and Experimental Metastasis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal metastases
  • Real-life data
  • Systematic review


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