Cancer: in pursuit of circulating tumor cells


Tomorrow, in Montpellier, the world’s best experts will come together to advance research and improve the personalization of treatments.

Catherine Alix-Panabières is experiencing her last hours of stress. Because tomorrow will open in Montpellier the 11th international symposium “On Minimal Residual Cancer” , so a congress on the various aspects of the cancerous disease. The responsible dynamics of the Laboratory Rare circulating human cells, within the department of pathology and onco-biology (CHU and University of Montpellier), was our guest at Futurapolis Health , at the end of last year. In association with Klaus Pantel (Director of the Institute of Tumors at the University Hospital of Hamburg, northern Germany), who created this biannual itinerant event in 1996, she organizes it for the first time in her city, from May 3 to 5, 2018. The greatest world experts will come to talk about their most recent progress. Their goal is to advance today’s research and, perhaps, the clinic tomorrow. Interview.

The Point: What are the main topics you have chosen to address?

Catherine Alix-Panabières : They are varied. First, we will focus on the biology of tumor dissemination, the fact that cells leave the primary tumor and wander through the human body to create metastases. Other topics will be discussed, such as “Evolution and cancer”, “Cancer stem cells” or “Immunity and cancer”. This last theme is very important because immunotherapy is developing very quickly. Of course we will also talk about all the circulating biomarkers such as circulating tumor cells, circulating tumor DNA and many others that are coming in and which are being researched during the liquid biopsy, a term that Klaus Pantel and I invented and published. for the first time in 2010. Finally,

With what consequences for patients?

The goal is to come up with a precision medicine or a personalized therapy, so knowing what medicine to give a patient and when based on these biomarkers. It is also to know quickly whether a treatment is effective or not and to predict very early the appearance of metastatic relapses.

For which type of cancer are the most advanced jobs?

Today, it’s for breast cancer, because we had the chance to lead in France with Jean-Yves Pierga (oncologist at the Curie Institute in Paris) a national study that counted circulating tumor cells in approximately 1,000 women with metastatic breast cancer to define the most appropriate treatment (hormone therapy or chemotherapy). We will have the results at the end of the year. If they are conclusive, we could submit a file to the High Authority of Health to request a refund of our test. Based on the liquid biopsy in addition to clinical, biological and pathological criteria we could refine medical decisions and treat these patients more accurately and efficiently, with better quality of life and lower cost for the state.

There, we talk about metastatic breast cancer. When will we be able to imagine the same thing in early detection of cancer?

We are considering it more and more. I’m coming back from the biggest international cancer conference, AACR in Chicago, where I hosted a symposium. I had invited Dennis Lo from Hong Kong, who has been working with fetal DNA for many, many years, to detect diseases before birth. It is also a globally recognized expert in circulating tumor DNA. He comes to Montpellier to present his latest work on this DNA and screening for ENT cancers. The first results have yet to be confirmed, but they are promising. In other words, we are not yet in the era of blood screening for these diseases, but the techniques are becoming more precise and we should get there in the next few years.

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