Minimal residual disease and circulating tumor cells in breast cancer
Tumor cell dissemination in bone marrow or other organs is thought to represent an important step in the metastatic process. The detection of bone marrow disseminated tumor cells is associated with worse outcome in early breast cancer. Moreover, the detection of peripheral blood circulating tumor cells is an adverse prognostic factor in metastatic breast cancer, and emerging data suggest that this is also true for early disease. Beyond enumeration, the characterization of these cells has the potential to improve risk assessment, treatment selection and monitoring, and the development of novel therapeutic agents, and to advance our understanding of the biology of metastasis.