Determination of the androgen receptor status of circulating tumour cells in metastatic breast cancer patients

Natalia Krawczyk*, Melissa Neubacher, Franziska Meier-Stiegen, Hans Neubauer, Dieter Niederacher, Eugen Ruckhäberle, Svjetlana Mohrmann, Jürgen Hoffmann, Thomas Kaleta, Malgorzata Banys-Paluchowski, Petra Reinecke, Irene Esposito, Wolfgang Janni, Tanja Fehm

*Corresponding author for this work
1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: The prognostic relevance of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients has been confirmed by several clinical trials. However, predictive blood-based biomarkers for stratification of patients for targeted therapy are still lacking. The DETECT studies explore the utility of CTC phenotype for treatment decisions in patients with HER2 negative MBC. Associated with this concept is a plethora of translational projects aiming to identify potential predictive biomarkers. The androgen receptor (AR) is expressed in over 70% of hormone receptor-positive and up-to 45% of triple-negative tumours. Studies has indicated the promising nature of AR as a new therapy target with a clinical benefit rate for anti-AR treatment in MBC patients up to 25% The aim of this analysis was the characterization of CTCs regarding the expression of the AR using immunofluorescence. Methods: MBC patients were screened for the HER2-status of CTCs in the DETECT studies. In a subset of CTC-positive patients (n = 67) an additional blood sample was used for immunomagnetic enrichment of CTCs using the CellSearch® Profile Kit prior to transfer of the cells onto cytospin slides. Establishment of immunofluorescence staining for the AR was performed using prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and DU145 as positive and negative control, respectively. Staining of DAPI, pan-cytokeratin (CK) and CD45 was applied to identify nucleated epithelial cells as CTCs and to exclude leucocytes. Results: Co-staining of the AR, CK and CD45 according to the above mentioned workflow has been successfully established using cell lines with known AR expression spiked into the blood samples from healthy donors. For this translational project, samples were analysed from 67 patients participating in the DETECT studies. At least one CTC was detected in 37 out of 67 patients (56%). In 16 of these 37 patients (43%) AR-positive CTCs were detected. In eight out of 25 patients (32%) with more than one CTC, AR-positive and AR-negative CTCs were observed. Conclusion: In 43% of the analysed CTC samples from patients with MBC the AR expression has been detected. The predictive value of AR expression in CTCs remains to be evaluated in further trials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1101
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12.11.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)


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