Bone marrow micrometastases and circulating tumor cells: current aspects and future perspectives

Breast Cancer Res. 2004;6(6):258-61. doi: 10.1186/bcr942. Epub 2004 Sep 29.


Early tumor cell dissemination at the single-cell level can be revealed in patients with breast cancer by using sensitive immunocytochemical and molecular assays. Recent clinical studies involving more than 4000 breast cancer patients demonstrated that the presence of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow at primary diagnosis is an independent prognostic factor. In addition, various assays for the detection of circulating tumor cells in the peripheral blood have recently been developed and some studies also suggest a potential clinical relevance of this measure. These findings provide the basis for the potential use of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow or blood as markers for the early assessment of therapeutic response in prospective clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / blood
  • Bone Marrow Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*