Clinical significance of circulating tumor cells after chemotherapy in unresectable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Transl Oncol. 2022 Feb:16:101321. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2021.101321. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) have emerged as liquid biopsy biomarker providing non-invasive assessment of cancer progression and biology. We investigated whether longitudinal analysis of CTCs could monitor disease progression, response to chemotherapy, and survival in patients with unresectable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). A total of 52 patients with PDAC were prospectively enrolled in this study. Peripheral blood samples were serially collected at the time of diagnosis and after chemotherapy with clinical assessments. CTCs were isolated through a centrifugal microfluidic disc, enumerated with immunostaining against Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), Cytokeratin (CK), Plectin-1 and CD45, and identified by an automated imaging system. One or more CTCs were detected in 84.62% patients with unresectable PDAC at the time of diagnosis. CTC numbers were not statistically different across tumor sizes, location and metastatic sites. The absolute number of CTCs after chemotherapy was inversely related to overall survival (OS), and the decreased number of CTCs after chemotherapy was significantly associated with longer OS in patients with PDAC. Identifying CTCs and monitoring CTC changes after chemotherapy could be a useful prognostic marker for survival in patients with unresectable PDACs.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; Circulating tumor cells; Plectin-1; Prognostic marker; Unresectable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.