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J Clin Oncol. 1990 May;8(5):831-7.

Epithelial tumor cells in bone marrow of patients with colorectal cancer: immunocytochemical detection, phenotypic characterization, and prognostic significance.

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  • 1Medical Clinic II, Zentralklinikum, Augsburg, Federal Republic of Germany.


A monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the cytokeratin (CK) polypeptide no. 18 specifically expressed in cells derived from simple epithelia was used to detect epithelial tumor cells in bone marrow aspirates. Of 156 patients with colorectal carcinoma, 42 presented with cells at the time of primary surgery. The incidence of positive findings varied considerably with the size and the localization of the primary tumor, the involvement of regional lymph nodes, and the presence of clinically manifest metastases. Applying a sensitive double-staining procedure, we could demonstrate that epithelial cells in bone marrow showed a heterogeneic expression of receptors for epidermal growth factor (EGF-R) and transferrin (Tf-R) as well as of the proliferation-associated Ki67 antigen. Also human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I antigens differed widely in their expression on the CK-positive cells. Clinical follow-up studies on 85 patients showed a significantly higher relapse rate in patients presenting with CK-positive cells in their bone marrow at the time of primary surgery. Twenty-three patients were monitored for the presence or absence of CK-positive cells in bone marrow over time. The majority of monitored patients (18 of 23) exhibited a constant pattern of immunocytochemical findings during the time of observation. Thus, the technique may be useful in identifying high-risk patients as well as in monitoring adjuvant therapeutic trials.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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