Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have discovered that the blood levels of circulating tumor cells and megakaryocytes (platelet-producing cells) may help identify patients with aggressive metastatic prostate cancer, allowing them to receive targeted treatments sooner.
The study, “The novel association of circulating tumor cells and circulating megakaryocytes with prostate cancer prognosis,” was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, and addresses an unmet medical need in the sense that it offers an accurate way of predicting earlier whether a patient’s prostate cancer has become metastatic.
“Cancers spreading to new areas of the body is the main reason why people die from the disease. This study shows a potential new way of helping to monitor this spread in men with prostate cancer. It was able to predict which patients were likely to fare better than others, based on the number of a rare type of immune cell found in the blood. This may help doctors make better-informed treatment decisions based on the extra information, and ultimately improve survival,” Catherine Pickworth, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said in a press release.
For this study, blood samples were collected from 81 prostate cancer patients, and analyzed using Parsortix, a new cell capture technology, developed by ANGLE. The Parsortix system has the ability to capture all types of cancer cells that are present in the bloodstream upon leaving the original tumor.
The circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that were investigated in this study have been reported to be involved in poor patient survival and to correlate to the beginning of metastasis formation.
The Parsortix system, also allowed the researchers to discover rare cells in the blood, known as megakaryocytes, which are bone marrow cells that produce platelets. While megakaryocytes had never been linked to cancer prognosis, the team found that higher levels of these cells were associated with better patient prognosis.
“This work opens up a wide range of exciting opportunities to benefit cancer patients. We have already started to test more patient samples and will soon move on to wider clinical trials to confirm the efficacy of the test. We are also working to see if this test can be used on other types of cancer,” said Yong-Jie Lu, MD, PhD, lead researcher of the study.
By taking into account the number of CTCs and megakaryocytes harvested by the Parsortix system, the researchers developed a combined scoring system, based on data from 40 patients who had their disease monitored for more than 20 months. The scoring system allowed them to identify patients 10 times more likely to die from prostate cancer in the short run.
“This is a very promising study for patients and has the potential to significantly increase the ability of clinicians to act earlier, to treat those who are at a higher risk of dying earlier from their cancer,” said Rebecca Porta, CEO of Orchid, the main company that funded the study. “Delivering more appropriate treatment more quickly could help to save lives and prolong life expectancy.”