Mutational studies on single circulating tumor cells isolated from the blood of inflammatory breast cancer patients

Catherine Bingham, Sandra V. Fernandez*, Patricia Fittipaldi, Paul W. Dempsey, Karen J. Ruth, Massimo Cristofanilli, R. Katherine Alpaugh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Purpose: The molecular characterization of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is critical to identify the key drivers of cancer metastasis and devising therapeutic approaches, particularly for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) which is usually diagnosed at advance stages and progresses rapidly. Methods: Genomic alterations in tumor tissue samples were studied using Foundation One™. Single CTCs were isolated using CellSearch followed by single-cell isolation by DEPArray™. Samples with 20 or more CTCs were chosen to isolate single CTCs using the DEPArray™. Results: Genomic alterations were studied in primary tumor or metastatic sites from 32 IBC patients. Genes with high-frequency mutations were as follows: TP53 (69%), RB1 (16%), PIK3CA (13%), and also ErbB2 (3%). At least once during treatment, CTCs were detected in 26 patients with metastatic IBC, in two patients with locally advanced IBC, and four patients had no detectable CTCs. Per 7.5 mL of blood, fifteen patients (47%) had ≥20 CTCs and six of them were chosen at random to isolate single CTCs. These cells were tested for the presence of TP53, RB1, PIK3CA, and/or ErbB2 mutations previously found in matching tissue biopsies. The isolated CTCs showed the same mutations as primary or metastatic tumor samples. Intra-patient CTC heterogeneity was found by the presence of different CTC subclones, with some CTCs harboring different combinations of mutated and wild-type genes. Conclusions: Our results indicate that CTCs could represent a non-invasive source of cancer cells from which to determine genetic markers as the disease progresses and identify potential therapeutic targets in IBC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-230
Number of pages12
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • CTC
  • IBC
  • Single-cell analysis
  • Tumor heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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