Direct genetic analysis of single disseminated cancer cells for prediction of outcome and therapy selection in esophageal cancer

Cancer Cell. 2008 May;13(5):441-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2008.04.005.


The increasing use of primary tumors as surrogate markers for prognosis and therapeutic decisions neglects evolutionary aspects of cancer progression. To address this problem, we studied the precursor cells of metastases directly for the identification of prognostic and therapeutic markers and prospectively analyzed single disseminated cancer cells from lymph nodes and bone marrow of 107 consecutive esophageal cancer patients. Whole-genome screening revealed that primary tumors and lymphatically and hematogenously disseminated cancer cells diverged for most genetic aberrations. However, we identified chromosome 17q12-21, the region comprising HER2, as the most frequent gain in disseminated tumor cells that were isolated from both ectopic sites. Survival analysis demonstrated that HER2 gain in a single disseminated tumor cell but not in primary tumors conferred high risk for early death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 17*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Genes, erbB-2
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Treatment Outcome