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Cancer. 1999 Aug 1;86(3):492-7.

The detection of renal carcinoma cells in the peripheral blood with an enhanced reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assay for MN/CA9.

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Department of Urology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.



Using a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, the authors previously determined the expression of MN/CA9 mRNA in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and its absence in benign renal tissue. In the current study, the utility of an enhanced RT-PCR assay in the detection of renal carcinoma cells in the peripheral blood was assessed.


An enhanced MN/CA9 RT-PCR assay was applied to peripheral blood samples from a total of 96 patients. Forty-two patients had renal tumors, including 5 with benign renal lesions, 28 with localized RCC, and 9 with metastatic RCC. Fifty-four control patients without renal tumors were similarly tested. Pathologic staging for patients with localized cancer was T1N0M0 for 5, T2N0M0 for 9, and T3N0M0 for 14 patients.


Cells expressing MN/CA9 were detected in 1 of 54 controls (1.8%) and in 18 of 37 cancer patients (49%). Thirteen of twenty eight patients (46%) with localized RCC and 5 of 9 (56%) with metastatic disease tested positive with the assay. No patient with a benign renal tumor exhibited MN/CA9 expression. All blood test results for patients with clear cell RCC were noted to be positive. No correlation was noted between MN/CA9 results and age, gender, or tumor grade. The differences in MN/CA9 results according to T classification were not statistically significant.


The enhanced RT-PCR assay for MN/CA9 is a highly specific technique for detecting circulating renal carcinoma cells in the peripheral blood, and it may prove useful in the diagnosis and monitoring of RCC.

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