Background: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association of circulating tumour cell (CTC) counts, before and after commencing treatment, with overall survival (OS) in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).
Experimental design: A 7.5 ml of blood was collected before and after treatment in 119 patients with CRPC. CTCs were enumerated using the CellSearchSystem.
Results: Higher CTC counts associated with baseline characteristics portending aggressive disease. Multivariate analyses indicated that a CTC >or=5 was an independent prognostic factor at all time points evaluated. Patients with baseline CTC >or=5 had shorter OS than those with <5 [median OS 19.5 versus >30 months, hazard ratio (HR) 3.25, P=0.012]; patients with CTC >50 had a poorer OS than those with CTCs 5-50 (median OS 6.3 versus 21.1 months, HR 4.1, P<0.001). Patients whose CTC counts reduced from >or=5 at baseline to <5 following treatment had a better OS compared with those who did not. CTC counts showed a similar, but earlier and independent, ability to time to disease progression to predict OS.
Conclusion: CTC counts predict OS and provide independent prognostic information to time to disease progression; CTC dynamics following therapy need to be evaluated as an intermediate end point of outcome in randomised phase III trials.