Detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) by qPCR. CTCc were assessed by means of expression of transcripts for CK-19 in whole blood, as described in detail in “Patients and methods”. Samples from 16 patients were obtained within 7 days prior to surgery (baseline), and 24 h, 2 weeks and 1 month after surgery. Data from all treatment groups were pooled. Horizontal lines indicate the median values. The cut-off RQ value was 0.00445 for healthy woman volunteers aged 25–61 years, based on ROC analysis (specificity: 100 %; sensibility: 81.25 %; area = 0.91).