Prostate cancer cells in blood might suggest risk of recurrence

May 8, 2013 | by Nicole White

Analyzing blood for prostate cancer cells could be used to assess the risk of recurrence, research suggests. Analyzing blood for prostate cancer cells could be used to assess the risk of recurrence, research suggests.

Choosing the course of prostate cancer treatment is not always straightforward. Doctors first must assess the likelihood that the disease will recur before trying to tailor the intensity of treatments. A simple blood test could provide some guidance.

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) – cells that slough off from cancerous tissue and enter the bloodstream – are common in patients with cancers that have metastasized, and are already used in a Food and Drug Administration-approved diagnostic test. These cells are not expected in patients with localized prostate cancer, that is, cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the immediate area.

New City of Hope research presented today at the American Urologic Association meeting in San Diego indicates that not only are these cells present in some patients with localized cancer, but they could potentially serve as an important indicator of which patients are at highest risk of their cancer returning quickly.


Sumanta Pal, M.D., and Jeremy Jones, Ph.D., studied 35 men who had surgery at City of Hope for localized prostate cancer. Pal  is an assistant  professor in Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, and Jones is an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology.

Using a simple modification of the FDA-approved test , they found that patients who had no detectable CTCs prior to surgery, but detectable CTC levels after surgery, had early recurrences of their prostate cancer.

“This is definitely something we want to look at in a larger study,” said Pal, co-director of the kidney cancer program at City of Hope. “Down the line, if we can validate this data, we hope this technique can be used to identify patients at higher risk of their cancer returning.”

For these patients, physicians might opt for a more aggressive course of treatment, such as radiation or hormone therapies in addition to surgery.

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