Objective: To determine the feasibility of using flow cytometry fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis for detecting circulating epithelial cells (CECs) in patients with hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPC), and to determine whether CECs can be used to predict survival in these patients.
Patients and methods: Several prognostic models that include routinely used clinical and laboratory variables for predicting survival in men with HRPC have been reported; the presence of CECs measured by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in patients with HRPC is an independent prognostic factor for survival. CECs detected by FACS analysis correlate with advanced stage and poor survival outcome. A retrospective study was conducted to assess the presence of CECs by FACS analysis in metastatic HRPC patients initiating systemic chemotherapy with a taxane-based regimen. The association between clinical variables previously described and the presence of CECs along with the effect of the magnitude of CECs on survival was calculated, in 41 patients with HRPC, all of whom had peripheral blood collected for FACS analysis.
Results: Except for four patients, all those with metastatic HRPC had detectable CECs. Among these patients, the number of CECs/mL was correlated with age, serum PSA level and serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Higher serum levels of PSA and ALP predicted a poor survival outcome. Similarly, patients with < or =1.8 CECs/mL had a significantly longer survival than those with more CECs/mL (P = 0.02). With a median follow-up of 15.4 months, the median overall survival for all patients was 18.4 months.
Conclusions: The presence of more CECs in patients with metastatic HRPC was associated with a poorer survival outcome; levels of > or =1.8 CECs/mL were associated with a shorter survival in patients with metastatic HRPC.