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This Week in the British Journal of Cancer: Jun 5, 2012

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In the British Journal of Cancer, researchers from the US and UK describe a viable method for the detection of circulating tumor cells to predict progression-free survival in metastatic breast cancer patients. Using an ultrasensitive multiplex fluorescent RNA in situ hybridization-based CTC detection system called CTCscope, the researchers analyzed healthy blood samples that had been infected with tumor cell lines as well as blood samples from 45 metastatic breast cancer patients. CTCscope was able to detect CTC transcripts of eight epithelial markers and three epithelial-mesenchymal-transition markers and did not detect apoptotic or dead cells, the researchers found. In patient blood samples, the team detected CTCs that predicted progression-free survival. "CTCscope offers unique advantages over existing CTC detection approaches," the authors write. "By enumerating and characterizing only viable CTCs, CTCscope provides additional prognostic and predictive information in therapy monitoring." Four of the authors own stock in Advanced Cell Diagnostics, which makes the test.

Also in the British Journal of Cancer, researchers in the US and Europe report on a case-control study of inflammation markers and the risk of pancreatic cancer. The team measured pre-diagnostic blood levels of C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and soluble receptors of tumor necrosis factor-α in 455 pancreatic cancer cases and 455 matched controls and found that none of these markers were significantly associated with risk of pancreatic cancer. However, a borderline significant association was observed for higher levels of circulating sTNF-R2, and higher levels of sTNF-R1 in women were significantly associated with risk of pancreatic cancer. "Prospectively, CRP and IL-6 do not seem to have a role in our study with respect to risk of pancreatic cancer, whereas sTNF-R1 seemed to be a risk factor in women and sTNF-R2 might be a mediator in the risk relationship between overweight and diabetes with pancreatic cancer," the authors write.

Finally in the British Journal of Cancer this week, researchers in Austria report that down-regulation of KRAS-interacting microRNA-143 in colorectal cancer patients predicts poor prognosis, but doesn't predict response to EGFR-targeted therapeutics. The team examined 77 colorectal cancer patients who were determined to have wild-type KRAS and treated with EGFR-targeted therapy, and later measured miRNA-143 expression in their cancer tissues. They found down-regulation of miRNA-143 in 61 percent of the tumors and observed that this down-regulation served as an independent prognostic factor of cancer-specific survival. However, the down-regulation was not associated with objective response rate to EGFR-targeted treatments.