Detection of disseminated tumor cells in neuroblastoma: 3 Log improvement in sensitivity by automatic immunofluorescence plus FISH (AIPF) analysis compared with classical bone marrow cytology

Gabor Méhes, Andrea Luegmayr, Rosa Kornmüller, Ingeborg M. Ambros, Ruth Ladenstein, Helmut Gadner, Peter F. Ambros

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The sensitive detection of bone marrow involvement is crucial for tumor staging at diagnosis and for monitoring of the therapeutic response in the patient's follow-up. In neuroblastoma, only conventional cytomorphological techniques are presently accepted for the detection of bone marrow involvement, yet since the therapeutic consequences of the bone marrow findings may be far-reaching, the need for highly reliable detection methods has become evident. For this purpose, we developed an automatic immunofluorescence plus FISH (AIPF) device which allows the exact quantification of disseminated tumor cells and the genetic verification in critical cases. In this study, the power of the immunofluorescence technique is compared with conventional cytomorphology. 198 samples from 23 neuroblastoma patients (stages 4 and 4s) at diagnosis and during follow-up were investigated. At diagnosis, 45.6% of the samples (26 of 57) which were positive by AIPF investigation were negative by cytomorphology. During follow-up, 74.2% (49 of 66) of AIPF-positive samples showed no cytological signs of tumor cell involvement. False negative morphological results were found in up to 10% of tumor cell content. A tumor cell infiltrate below 0.1% was virtually not detectable by conventional cytomorphology. Using the sensitive immunofluorescence technique, the analysis of only two instead of four puncture sites did not lead to false negative results. Thus, the immunofluorescence technique offers an excellent tool for reliable detection and quantification of disseminated tumor cells at diagnosis and during the course of the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-399
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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