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Research Article

Epithelial cells in bone marrow of oesophageal cancer patients: a significant prognostic factor in multivariate analysis


The detection of epithelial cells in bone marrow, blood or lymph nodes indicates a disseminatory potential of solid tumours. 225 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus were prospectively studied. Prior to any therapy, cytokeratin-positive (CK) cells in bone marrow were immunocytochemically detected in 75 patients with the monoclonal anti-epithelial-cell antibody A45-B/B3 and correlated with established histopathologic and patient-specific prognosis factors. The prognosis factors were assessed by multivariate analysis. Twenty-nine of 75 (38.7%) patients with oesophageal cancer showed CK-positive cells in bone marrow. The analyses of the mean and median overall survival time showed a significant difference between patients with and without epithelial cells in bone marrow (P< 0.001). Multivariate analysis in the total patient population and in patients with curative resection of the primary tumour confirmed the curative resection rate and the bone marrow status as the strongest independent prognostic factors, besides the T-category. The detection of epithelial cells in bone marrow of oesophageal cancer patients is a substantial prognostic factor proved by multivariate analysis and is helpful for exact preoperative staging, as well as monitoring of neoadjuvant therapy. © 2000 Cancer Research Campaign