Tel.+49 30 838 62450 Fax.+49 30 838 62522
Clinicians and pathologists are sporadically asked by owners whether the taking of tumour biopsies may affect the behaviour of the tumour, including its potential to metastasise. Unfortunately, systematic studies on this subject are unavailable in veterinary medicine, and the aim of this study was to estimate the risk of adverse effects of biopsy taking on tumour progression in animals. A systematic review of veterinary and human case reports and clinical studies as well as experimental animal models of biopsy-induced tumour metastasis was undertaken. There were only two veterinary case reports of needle tract metastases (NTM) following the taking of needle biopsies from urogenital and pulmonary tumours. Seventeen experimental studies found a high incidence of NTM but only a rat osteosarcoma and a hamster squamous carcinoma model showed an increased incidence of distant or regional metastases after incision or excision biopsy. In human medicine, the occurrence of NTM has been reported after the taking of biopsies from mesotheliomas (15%), melanomas (11%) and gall bladder tumours (11%), liver metastases of colon carcinomas (4%) and mammary carcinomas (4%) but an incidence of only <1% for all other tumours. Circulating tumour cells increased immediately after the taking of biopsies from human squamous cell, prostate, breast and hepatocellular carcinomas. Although no increased risk of biopsy-induced distant metastasis has been reported for any type of tumour, this is inconclusive due to a lack of non-biopsied control groups in human studies. Reports of biopsy-induced metastasis in animal tumours indicate that the taking of transcutaneous biopsies from urogenital tumours may be associated with a risk of NTM. However, there is no evidence of a general increase in risk of distant metastases in any tumour type in people or animals. The overall risk therefore appears to be negligible when compared to the valuable information obtained from biopsies in veterinary practice.