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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 May 1;10(9):3020-8.

Reliable and sensitive identification of occult tumor cells using the improved rare event imaging system.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of using rare event imaging system (REIS)-assisted analysis to detect occult tumor cells (OTCs) in peripheral blood (PB). The study also sought to determine whether REIS-assisted OTC detection presents a clinically viable alternative to manual microscopic detection to establish the true significance of OTC from solid epithelial tumors.


We recently demonstrated proof of concept using a fluorescence-based automated microscope system, REIS, for OTC detection from the PB. For this study, the prototype of the system was adopted for high-throughput and high-content cellular analysis.


The performance of the improved REIS was examined using normal blood (n = 10), normal blood added to cancer cells (n = 20), and blood samples obtained from cancer patients (n = 80). Data from the screening of 80 clinical slides from breast and lung cancer patients, by manual microscopy and by the REIS, revealed that as many as 14 of 35 positive slides (40%) were missed by manual screening but positively identified by REIS. In addition, REIS-assisted scanning reliably and reproducibly quantified the total number of cells analyzed in the assay and categorized positive cells based on their marker expression profile.


REIS-assisted analysis provides excellent sensitivity and reproducibility for OTC detection. This approach may enable an improved method for screening of PB samples and for obtaining novel information about disease staging and about risk evaluation in cancer patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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