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Monitoring of minimal residual cancer in bone marrow in high-risk breast cancer patients treated with high-dose chemotherapy


The present study aimed to investigate the clinical relevance of minimal residual cancer in breast cancer patients before and after high-dose adjuvant chemotherapy with or without progenitor stem cell support.


One hundred and eighteen high-risk stage II breast cancer patients entering the Scandinavian Study Group multicentre trial [1] were randomised to nine cycles of dose-escalated FEC (5-flurouracil, epirubicin, cyclophosphamide) or three cycles of standard FEC followed by high-dose chemotherapy. Bone marrow (BM) samples at diagnosis and 6 months after completion of chemotherapy were assessed for the presence of cytokeratin-positive (CK+) cells. CK+ cells in BM were evaluated as a prognostic and predictive marker and were compared with other defined prognostic factors of the primary tumour.


Monitoring BM changes at time of diagnosis and at 6 months post-treatment is an independent predictive factor for breast cancer-specific survival (P = 0.001, univariate analysis). Those who have consistent CK-negative BM findings constitute a group of patients with good prognosis.


Monitoring of CK+ cells in BM before and after high-dose chemotherapy with or without stem cell support can be used clinically as a surrogate maker to predict outcome in breast cancer patients.


  1. Bergh J, Wiklund T, Erikstein B, Lidbrink E, Lindman H, Malmstrom P, Kellokumpu-Lehtinen P, Bengtsson NO, Soderlund G, Anker G, et al: Tailored fluorouracil, epirubicin, and cyclophos-phamide compared with marrow-supported high-dose chemotherapy as adjuvant treatment for high-risk breast cancer: a randomised trial. Scandinavian Breast Group 9401 study. Lancet. 2000, 356: 1384-1391. 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02841-5.

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Drageset, V., Nesland, J., Erikstein, B. et al. Monitoring of minimal residual cancer in bone marrow in high-risk breast cancer patients treated with high-dose chemotherapy. Breast Cancer Res 7, P5.04 (2005).

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  • Breast Cancer Patient
  • Epirubicin
  • Independent Predictive Factor
  • Stem Cell Support
  • Bone Marrow Change