Adjuvant chemotherapy is not routinely recommended in patients with colorectal cancer stage UICC II. Some of these patients, however, develop recurrent disease. Therefore, valid prognostic criteria are needed to identify high-risk patients who might benefit from adjuvant therapy. Disseminated tumor cells, detected in blood and bone marrow, may prove to be a valid marker, however, the prognostic relevance of these cells remains debated. In our study, we examined the prognostic significance of disseminated tumor cells in blood and bone marrow of patients with stage II colorectal cancer. Ninety patients with potentially curative (R0) resection of colorectal cancer stage II were prospectively enrolled into the study. Bone marrow and blood samples were examined for disseminated tumor cells by CK 20 RT-PCR. Patient, tumor and treatment factors were analyzed as prognostic factors. Multivariate analysis confirmed tumor cell detection in blood (hazard ratio 2.1, p = 0.03) and T-category (hazard ratio 2.2, p = 0.02) to be independent prognostic factors for relapse-free survival. Tumor cell detection in postoperative blood samples (hazard ratio 7.7, p < 0.001) and number of removed lymph nodes (hazard ratio 6.4, p < 0.001) were independent prognostic factors for disease-specific survival. Detection of circulating tumor cells in blood samples of patients with stage II colorectal cancer identifies patients with poor outcome. This finding should be confirmed by further studies and could then be used as a basis for conducting a randomized trial evaluating the effect of adjuvant chemotherapy in stage II patients.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.