Identification and enumeration of circulating tumor cells in the cerebrospinal fluid of breast cancer patients with central nervous system metastases

Akshal S. Patel, Joshua E. Allen, David T. Dicker, Kristi L. Peters, Jonas M. Sheehan, Michael J. Glantz, Wafik S. El-Deiry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Scopus citations


The number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the peripheral blood of metastatic breast cancer patients is now an established prognostic marker. While the central nervous system (CNS) is a common site of metastasis in breast cancer, the standard marker for disease progression in this setting is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cytology. However, the significance of CSF cytology is unclear, requires large sample size, is insensitive and subjective, and sometimes yields equivocal results. Here, we report the detection of breast cancer cells in CSF using molecular markers by adapting the CellSearch system (Veridex). We used this platform to isolate and enumerate breast cancer cells in CSF of breast cancer patients with central nervous system metastases. The number of CSF tumor cells correlated with tumor response to chemotherapy and were dynamically associated with disease burden. This CSF tumor cell detection method provides a semi-automated molecular analysis that vastly improves the sensitivity, reliability, objectivity, and accuracy of detecting CSF tumor cells compared to CSF cytology. CSF tumor cells may serve as a marker of disease progression and early-stage brain metastasis in breast cancer and potentiate further molecular analysis to elucidate the biology and significance of tumor cells in the CSF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-760
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology

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