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Predicting Relapse of Stage III Melanoma Using Circulating Tumor Cells

By: Lauren Harrison, MS
Posted: Monday, March 23, 2020

The presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in stage III melanoma appears to be associated with melanoma relapse, and CTCs may be useful in identifying patients at risk of relapse. This study, which was published in Clinical Cancer Research, was conducted by Anthony Lucci, MD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and colleagues.

“Our findings are significant, given that there is a need for blood-based biomarkers to guide clinical decision making for stage III melanoma patients,” said Dr. Lucci in an MD Anderson press release. “The data from this study provide support for the future pursuit of liquid biopsy techniques to help identify patients most likely to benefit from adjuvant systemic therapy.”

This study assessed CTCs at the time of first presentation for 243 patients with stage III (node-positive) melanoma. Relapse-free survival was compared between patients who had one or more CTCs versus those who had no CTCs. There were 90 patients (37%) within the study population who had CTCs observed in their samples. Of note, the presence of CTCs was not associated with substage or primary tumor characteristics. Researchers used multivariate analysis to conclude that the detection of at least 1 baseline CTC was significantly associated with a decreased 6-month relapse-free survival (hazard ratio = 3.62). The 5-month relapse-free survival was likewise decreased when patients had CTCs present (hazard ratio = 1.69).

“Our analysis demonstrated that CTC detection was significantly associated with a decrease in relapse-free survival at 6 months and persisted at a 54-month longer-term follow-up,” said Dr. Lucci.

Disclosure: The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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