Simultaneous detection of circulating immunological parameters and tumor biomarkers in early stage breast cancer patients during adjuvant chemotherapy

B. Rovati, S. Mariucci, S. Delfanti, D. Grasso, C. Tinelli, C. Torre, M. de Amici, P. Pedrazzoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Chemotherapy-induced immune suppression has mainly been studied in patients with advanced cancer, but the influence of chemotherapy on the immune system in early stage cancer patients has so far not been studied systematically. The aim of the present study was to monitor the immune system during anthracycline- and taxane-based adjuvant chemotherapy in early stage breast cancer patients, to assess the impact of circulating tumor cells on selected immune parameters and to reveal putative angiogenic effects of circulating endothelial cells. Methods: Peripheral blood samples from 20 early stage breast cancer patients were analyzed using a flow cytometric multi-color of antibodies to enumerate lymphocyte and dendritic cell subsets, as well as endothelial and tumor cells. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was used to measure the levels of various serological factors. Results: During chemotherapy, all immunological parameters and angiogenesis surrogate biomarkers showed significant decreases. The numbers of circulating tumor cells showed significant inverse correlations with the numbers of T helper cells, a lymphocyte subset directly related to effective anti-tumor responses. Reduced T helper cell numbers may contribute to systemic immunosuppression and, as such, the activation of dormant tumor cells. Conclusions: From our results we conclude that adjuvant chemotherapy suppresses immune function in early stage breast cancer patients. In addition, we conclude that the presence of circulating tumor cells, defined as pan-cytokeratin+, CD326+, CD45 cells, may serve as an important indicator of a patient’s immune status. Further investigations are needed to firmly define circulating tumor cells as a predictor for the success of breast cancer adjuvant chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCellular Oncology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 14 2016


  • Adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy
  • Cytokine
  • Dendritic cells
  • Endothelial cells
  • Lymphocyte subsets
  • Tumor cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology


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