Background: Blood-based testing can be used as a noninvasive method to recover and analyze circulating tumor-derived cells for clinical use. Circulating cancer-associated macrophage-like cells (CAML) are specialized myeloid cells found in peripheral blood and associated with the presence of solid malignancies. We measured CAMLs prospectively in peripheral blood to ascertain their prevalence, specificity, and sensitivity in relation to breast disease status at clinical presentation. Methods: We report on two related but separate studies: 1) CellSieve microfilters were used to isolate CAMLs from blood samples of patients with known malignant disease (n = 41). Prevalence and specificity was compared against healthy volunteers (n = 16). 2) A follow-up double-blind pilot study was conducted on women (n = 41) undergoing core-needle biopsy to diagnose suspicious breast masses. Results: CAMLs were found in 93% of known malignant patients (n = 38/41), averaging 19.4 cells per sample, but none in the healthy controls. In subjects undergoing core biopsy for initial diagnosis, CAMLs were found in 88% of subjects with invasive carcinoma (n = 15/17) and 26% with benign breast conditions (n = 5/19). Conclusion: These preliminary pilot studies suggest that the presence of CAMLs may differentiate patients with malignant disease, benign breast conditions, and healthy individuals. Impact: We supply evidence that this previously unidentified circulating stromal cell may have utility as a screening tool to detect breast cancer in various malignancies, irrespective of disease stage.
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