Tumor cell contamination (TCC) of peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs) is a major risk in the autologous PBSC transplant setting. However, the effect of different mobilization regimens (cytokines only versus cytokines + chemotherapy) on TCC of PBSCs and its impact on treatment outcomes have not been systematically reviewed. In the present meta-analysis, we aimed to investigate this effect in breast cancer patients since multiple studies have been conducted in this setting. We systematically searched MEDLINE and Cochrane Library up to May 2012. Seventeen studies (1,819 patients) were assessed. There was no significant difference in the incidence of TCC of PBSCs between the two mobilization regimens. When the analysis was restricted to granulocyte colony-stimulating factor as a cytokine, this difference was again not significant. We also found that TCC of PBSCs was associated with a higher annual recurrence rate in these patients. This suggests that there may be a significant risk for reinfusion of tumor cell-positive PBSCs, and whether it can increase the risk of disease recurrence needs to be determined. This study also raises important questions regarding the causes of TCC of PBSCs. These issues should be investigated systematically in PBSC transplant patients.

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