EVALUATING MMP-2 AND TGFß-RI EXPRESSION IN CIRCULATING TUMOR CELLS OF PANCREATIC CANCER PATIENTS AND THEIR CORRELATION WITH CLINICAL EVOLUTION

ABSTRACT Background: Metastasis is common in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and the presence of epithelial-mesenchymal transition markers in circulating tumor cells may suggest worse prognosis. Aim: To correlate the number of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in the peripheral blood of patients with a locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic tumor and the protein expression involved in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in CTCs with clinical characteristics, progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS). Method: This was a prospective study conducted using peripheral blood samples collected at three different times. CTCs were quantified by the ISET test and analyzed by immunocytochemistry. Proteins involved in EMT (vimentin, TGFß-RI and MMP2) were analyzed in all CTCs. Results: Twenty-one patients were included. Median CTCs detected were 22, 20 and 8 CTCs/8 ml blood at baseline, first and second follow-up, respectively. No statistically significant correlation was found in correlating the number of CTCs and the evaluated clinical characteristics, PFS, or OS. There was no difference in PFS and OS among the EMT markers in the groups with and without markers. Conclusion: CTC analysis was not relevant in this sample for comparing clinical findings, PFS and OS in patients with pancreatic cancer. However, marker analysis in CTCs could be useful for the MMP-2 and/or TGFß-RI expression, as observed by the separate PFS curve.