Is red cell distribution width a novel biomarker of breast cancer activity? Data from a pilot study

J Clin Med Res. 2013 Apr;5(2):121-6. doi: 10.4021/jocmr1214w. Epub 2013 Feb 25.


Background: Red cell distribution width (RDW) is a parameter of the standard full blood count tests, measuring the size variability of erythrocytes. Recently, its elevation has been proven to reliably reflect the extent systematic inflammation, mainly in cardiometabolic diseases. Up to date, its association with solid malignancies has been scarcely investigated.

Methods: We performed a retrospective study, in order to examine if RDW values comparing elevation is correlated with the histopathological parameters of breast cancer (tumor size, grade, lymphatic spread, overexpression of hormonal receptors and HER2 protein), as well as to assess the existence of any differences in RDW comparing two age-matched groups of patients with benign and malignant breast lesions respectively.

Results: RDW was significantly higher in patients with breast cancer, when compared to the enrolled patients with fibroadenomas. Moreover, in the breast cancer group, RDW elevation was significantly correlated with larger primary tumors, higher number of infiltrated axillary lymph nodes and HER2 overexpression, while it was inversely associated with the tumor grade.

Conclusions: Our pilot study demonstrated tha Red cell distribution width may be a novel biomarker of the activity of breast cancer. Although our preliminary findings need to be evaluated by studies with larger samples of patients, based on commonly accepted pathophysiological principles, we presume that they will be applicable not only in breast cancer, but also in other types of solid cancers, providing a simple and cost-effective biomarker of cancer surveillance.

Keywords: Biomarker; Breast; Cancer; Red cell distribution width.