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Table 2 CTC counts and morphologic characteristics in relation to breast cancer subtypea

From: Prognostic impact of circulating tumor cell apoptosis and clusters in serial blood samples from patients with metastatic breast cancer in a prospective observational cohort

Variables All patients N = 52 Hormone receptor positive (ER+, PgR±, HER2-) N = 39 HER2 positive (HER2+, ER±, PgR±) N = 7 Triple-negative (ER-, PgR-, HER2-) N = 4 P-value
CTC number      
 CTC count at BL median (range) 45 (5–668) 44 (5–668) 111 (12–311) 88 (39–253) 0.32
 CTC count at 1–3 mo median (range) 4 (0–263) 4 (0–263) 0 (0–9) 87 (75–144) 0.007
 CTC count at 6 mo median (range) 1 (0–765) 1 (0–765) 0 (0–183) 2 (2–2) 0.18
  ≥ 5 CTC at 1–3 mo      0.29
 Yes 19 15 1 3  
 No 29 22 5 1  
 Missing 4 2 1 0  
  ≥ 5 CTC at 6 mo      0.72
 Yes 14 12 1 1  
 No 27 19 5 1  
 Missing 11 8 1 2  
Apoptosis      
 Apoptotic CTC at BL      0.20
 Yes 40 29 6 4  
 Median number (range) 5 (1–54) 3 (1–52) 6.5 (1–54) 6.5 (5–40)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.08 (0.01–0.33) 0.09 (0.01–0.33) 0.07 (0.04–0.17) 0.12 (0.05–0.18)  
 No 12 10 1 0  
 Missing 0 0 0 0  
 Apoptotic CTC 1–3 mo      0.17
 Yes 17 13 1 3  
 Median number (range) 3 (1–18) 3 (1–18) 2 6 (3–9)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.13 (0.01–1.0) 0.13 (0.01–1.0) 0.22 0.04 (0.04–0.10)  
 No 31 24 5 0  
 Missing 4 2 1 1  
 Apoptotic CTCs 6 mo      0.49
 Yes 15 12 1 2  
 Median number (range) 2 (1–109) 2 (1–109) 2 3 (1–5)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.09 (0.01–1.0) 0.11 (0.02–1.0) 0.01 0.29 (0.09–0.50)  
 No 26 19 5 0  
 Missing 11 8 1 2  
Clusters      
 Clusters at BL      0.010
 Yes 9 4 3 2  
 Median number (range) 2 (1–18) 3 (1–18) 4 (1–4) 1.5 (1–2)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.02 (0.003–0.03) 0.02 (0.003–0.03) 0.01 (0.005–0.02) 0.02 (0.02–0.03)  
 No 43 35 4 2  
 Missing 0 0 0 0  
 Clusters at 1–3 mo      0.026
 Yes 5 3 0 2  
 Median number (range) 1 (1–4) 1 (1–4)   1 (1)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.009 (0.006–0.02) 0.009 (0.006–0.02)   0.01 (0.007–0.01)  
 No 43 34 6 1  
 Missing 4 2 1 1  
 Clusters at 6 mo      0.98
 Yes 4 3 1 0  
 Median number (range) 6 (1–16) 10 (2–16) 1   
 Median fraction (range) 0.003 (0.001–0.006) 0.001 (0.001–0.005) 0.006   
 No 37 28 5 2  
 Missing 11 8 1 2  
WBC-CTC      
 WBC-CTC at BL      0.45
 Yes 35 26 6 3  
 Median number (range) 4 (1–38) 3 (1–38) 6.5 (1–13) 4 (2–22)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.05 (0.004–0.6) 0.05 (0.004–0.6) 0.07 (0.02–0.2) 0.04 (0.03–0.09)  
 No 17 13 1 1  
 Missing 0 0 0 0  
 WBC-CTC at 1–3 mo      0.61
 Yes 12 10 0 2  
 Median number (range) 3.5 (1–101) 3.5 (1–28)   51.5 (2–101)  
 Median fraction (range) 0.1 (0.02–1) 0.1 (0.04–1)   0.4 (0.02–0.7)  
 No 36 27 6 1  
 Missing 4 2 1 1  
 WBC-CTC at 6 mo      0.49
 Yes 8 6 1 1  
 Median number (range) 6 (1–62) 5.5 (1–62) 9 3  
 Median fraction (range) 0.05 (0.009–0.09) 0.04 (0.009–0.09) 0.05 0.05  
 No 33 25 5 1  
 Missing 11 8 1 2  
  1. WBC-CTC white blood cells associated with CTC, ER estrogen receptor, PgR progesterone receptor, HER2 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, BL base-line, NHG Nottingham histological grade, MBC metastatic breast cancer, mo months
  2. a Breast cancer subtype was derived from the primary tumor (n = 40) and, if no primary tumor tissue was available, from the metastasis (n = 10). Two patients had insufficient tissue for subtype assessment