To determine whether the tumor cell contamination of peripheral blood stem cells influences clinical impacts on high-dose chemotherapy in patients with metastatic breast cancer, we analyzed carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) mRNA in the apheresis products by nested RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction). A total of 38 metastatic breast cancer patients and ten normal healthy subjects as a negative control were included. Twenty out of 38 (51.3%) apheresis products from patients with metastatic breast cancer were positive for CEA mRNA. CEA mRNA was noted in 54.8% (17/31) of patients mobilized with chemotherapy plus G-CSF and 42.8% (3/7) of patients with G-CSF alone. There was no significant difference in age, estrogen receptor, menopausal status, mobilization method, disease free interval, or number of metastasis sites (1 vs > or = 2) between positive and negative groups. The presence of CEA mRNA in apheresis products did not influence the time to progression and overall survival in both groups. However, both the univariate and the multivariate analysis disclosed that the number of metastasis was associated with survival significantly. We suggest that the tumor cell contamination does not predict poor treatment outcome in patients with metastatic breast cancer
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