Metastases, which result from circulating tumor cells (CTC) that have detached from the primary cancer and survived in distant organs, cause the majority of cancer deaths. The present study aimed to assess the prognostic relevance of CTC in patients with hepatobiliary–pancreatic cancer.
A total of 30 consenting patients were enrolled. Pre-resection blood samples were obtained from the hepatic or portal veins of patients, respectively. CTCs were analyzed using the CellSearch system and isolated using antibodies against the epithelial cell adhesion molecule and cytokeratin. Patients were separated into 2 groups based on their CTC counts. The CTC-positive group included patients with baseline CTC counts >10/7.5 ml.
Of the 30 patients, 12 (40 %) were considered CTC positive. CTC-positive patients had a shorter 1‑year progression-free survival (PFS) than CTC-negative patients (71.1 % vs. 36.4 %, p = 0.0324); however, no difference was observed in the 3‑year overall survival (47.1 % vs. 45.5 %, p = 0.7576). In particular, CTC-positive pancreatic carcinoma patients had a shorter 1‑year PFS (22.2 % vs. 0.0 % for CTC-negative, p = 0.0018).
Elevated CTC from hepatic or portal veins might predict a shorter PFS in patients with hepatobiliary–pancreatic cancer, particularly those with pancreatic carcinoma.