Previous retrospective studies demonstrated that circulating tumor cells (CTCs) subtypes correlate with overall survival in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Herein, we report results of a prospective observational study on CTCs dynamics to assess their clinical significance.Methods:
The CLUSTER study is a prospective longitudinal study on PDAC CTCs dynamics (NCT02974764). Multiple peripheral blood samples were collected from 200 consecutively enrolled patients with presumed PDAC diagnosis. CTCs were isolated and characterized by immunofluorescence.Results:
Two major CTCs subtypes were identified in PDAC patients: epithelial CTCs (eCTCs) and epithelial/mesenchymal CTCs (mCTCs). Patients who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy had significantly lower total CTCs (tCTCs, P = 0.007), eCTCs (P = 0.007), and mCTCs (P = 0.034), compared with untreated patients eligible for upfront resection. Surgical resection of the primary tumor resulted in significant reduction, but not disappearance, of CTCs burden across all cell subtypes (P < 0.001). In multivariable logistic regression analysis, preoperative numbers of all CTCs subpopulations were the only predictors of early recurrence within 12 months from surgery in both chemo-naive and post-neoadjuvant patients (odds ratio 5.9 to 11.0). Alterations in CTCs were also observed longitudinally, before disease recurrence. A risk assessment score based on the difference of tCTCs increase accurately identified disease recurrence within the next 2 months, with an accuracy of 75% and 84% for chemo-naive and post-neoadjuvant patients, respectively.Conclusion:
We report novel findings regarding CTCs from a large prospective cohort of PDAC patients. CTCs dynamics reflect progression of disease and response to treatment, providing important information on clinical outcomes, not available by current tumor markers and imaging.