Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have shown that some long-term breast-cancer survivors may have innate mechanisms to keep breast cancer at bay.
Their findings, published in the December issue of Clinical Cancer Research and available online, show that one-third of the longtime disease-free patients in the study had circulating tumor cells (CTCs). The presence of CTCs is often associated with a higher risk of recurrence if they are found soon after a mastectomy. The UT Southwestern discovery that CTCs can be found in patients up to 20 years after mastectomy is notable because these patients have a very low risk of recurrence. After 20 years, the risk of recurrence rises to 20 percent of survivors, and scientists are still unsure why.
"Dormancy is a mysterious phenomenon that occurs in certain types of cancer," said Dr. Jonathan Uhr, lead author of the study and professor in the Cancer Immunobiology Center and of microbiology and internal medicine. "The term refers to a recurrence of cancer long after the tumor has been removed."
Megha Satyanarayana | EurekAlert!
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