Tracking therapy progress through analysis of circulating tumor cells

A decision on the type of cancer treatment that is most appropriate for any given patient is made on the basis of the cancer type and the pathological findings available. Neither patient nor doctor can know for sure, however, whether the therapy implemented has actually been effective once it is begun.

In cases where a cancer diagnosis has already been made, maintrac® provides the treating physician with an additional tool for regular monitoring of the disease (usually every 3-6 months). For this, the number of circulating tumor cells (CETCs / CTCs) is calculated through analysis of a blood sample. This cell count is repeated at appropriate time intervals, the values are compared between the tests, and the progression over time is interpreted. If, for example, a decrease in cell count is seen whilst a patient is undergoing chemotherapy, this indicates that the therapy is effective.

Both in neoadjuvant and in adjuvant therapy, maintrac® is able to contribute to the monitoring of therapy with its cell counts. Such a monitoring of therapy based on circulating tumor cells in the blood is also possible in cases involving hormone or maintenance therapy, or during alternative treatments. maintrac® can be particularly helpful for treatment in cases of watch- and-wait" situations, e.g. in cases of prostate cancer.

Even if circulating tumor cells in the blood have completely disappeared due to a good response to therapy, treatment should under no circumstances be discontinued early. Cells may still be hidden within the tissues of the body, which can then be released back into the blood. These cells may only be eliminated within the complete course of therapy.

Tumor cells can become modified over the course of therapy, or grow in number once again after treatment has been completed. For this reason, long-term monitoring of treatment success is important, which can be carried out through analysis of circulating epithelial tumor cells. maintrac® is generally more sensitive than other methods , and therefore may detect new tumor activity sooner through detection of an increased tumor cell count.

In summary it can be said that through cell counts parallel to the course of the disease, maintrac® enables patients to receive optimized, timely, targeted and personalized forms of therapy.

There are no universal threshold values for evaluation of the analysis results. Instead, the first value taken from the cell count measuring is used as a base value, which on its own has little or no prognostic significance. Over the course of therapy, the cell count should be repeated and a comparison is made between the different results. Generally, the progression of results can be interpreted as follows:

Increase in Cell Numbers = further diagnostics necessary/ optimization required

Constant Cell Numbers = positive course

Decrease in Cell Numbers = good prognosis/ effective therapy

If a large increase in the number of circulating tumor cells is detected, then the cancer treatment should be modified. In this case, maintrac® allows for drug testing to be carried out, in order to identify which drug is probably most effective.

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