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Among women with early breast cancer, the presence of cancer cells in the bone marrow is associated with worse survival and a higher risk of cancer recurrence. These results were presented at the 28th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

An area of research that is currently receiving much time and attention is the identification of prognostic factors in patients with cancer. The identification of prognostic factors may help individualize cancer treatment and ultimately improve outcomes for patients with various cancers, including breast cancer.

Results from previous studies have indicated that bone marrow micrometastasis is associated with a poor prognosis in breast cancer. Micrometastasis refers to the spread of cancer cells in groups so small that they can only be seen under a microscope.

To further assess the relationship between bone marrow micrometastasis (BMM) and breast cancer outcomes, researchers in Germany conducted a combined analysis of nine clinical trials that assessed the presence of BMM. These trials included a total of 4,703 patients with stage I to stage III breast cancer. Overall, 31% of patients had evidence of BMM.

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  • Among patients with BMM, risk of death or relapse was increased by more than two-fold.
  • BMM was most strongly linked with prognosis during the first several years following breast cancer treatment.
  • BMM predicted prognosis among women treated only with chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, as well as among women who received no systemic cancer therapy.

The researchers concluded that these results provide further evidence that the presence of BMM confers significantly worse rates of survival and relapse in women with stages I-III breast cancer.

Reference: Vogl F, Braun S, Pantel K. Meta-and pooled analysis of the prognostic value of bone marrow micrometastasis on disease outcome in 4,703 breast cancer patients: final results after 10 years of follow-up. Proceedings from the 28th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. December 2005. Abstract #5.

Related News:Cancer Cells in Bone Marrow Linked to Poorer Survival in Breast Cancer (8/25/05)

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