Bone marrow micrometastases in breast cancer patients

Annamaria Molino, Giuseppe Pelosi, Rocco Micciolo, Monica Turazza, Rolando Nortilli, Flavia Pavanel, Gian Luigi Cetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of epithelial cells in bone marrow may be a prognostic factor in breast cancer, and so we evaluated their evolution in treated and untreated patients. A first bone marrow aspirate was obtained from 125 stage I/II breast cancer patients at diagnosis and repeated every 6-8 months; the samples were processed for leukocyte separation, used to prepare cytospin slides, stained with a pool of monoclonal antibodies (MoAb) recognising epithelial antigens, and immunocytochemically processed. The median follow-up was 48 months (range 15-82); 23 patients relapsed, and 14 died. MoAb positive cells were observed in 31.2% of first, 24.3% of second, and 27.8% of third aspirates. In 68/100 pairs of successive aspirates, bone marrow status remained unchanged; in 20 it became negative, and in 12 positive (not statistically significant even after adjusting for adjuvant therapy). An analysis based on Mantel and Byar's approach to time-dependent covariates using all 225 aspirates found no statistically significant prognostic difference between the patients with negative and positive bone marrow. Bone marrow status changed over time in about 1/3 of the patients; adjuvant therapy did not affect the probability of its becoming negative or positive. No significant association was found between bone marrow evolution and relapse or death, but the relatively high probability of a change in status over time cannot exclude the possibility that positive aspirate during the course of breast cancer may be a negative prognostic factor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Bone marrow
  • Breast cancer
  • Micrometastases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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