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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2001 May;19(5):576-9.

Iliac crest biopsy versus rib segment resection for the detection of bone marrow isolated tumor cells from lung and esophageal cancer.

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Dipartimento di Discipline Chirurgiche, Rianimatorie e dei Trapianti "A. Valsalva", Università di Bologna, Via Massarenti 9, 40138, Bologna, Italy.



The presence of isolated tumor cells in the bone marrow affects the prognosis of both esophageal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Therefore, preoperative assessment of isolated tumor cells may be useful to plan multimodality treatment. Rib segment resection at surgery provides adequate amounts of bone marrow for the detection of isolated tumor cells while bone marrow aspirate from the iliac crest does not. The iliac crest biopsy according to the Jamshidi technique procures a core of tissue apt for histology and not simply for cytology. The aim of this study was to compare the accuracy of iliac crest biopsy versus rib segment resection in the diagnosis of isolated tumor cells in order to obtain a useful preoperative approach.


Twenty-one consecutive patients (18 NSCLC, three esophageal cancer) were evaluated. None had chemotherapy prior to evaluation. Bone marrow was obtained preoperatively by iliac crest biopsy using the Jamshidi needle and at surgery by rib segment resection. Positive cytokeratin neoplastic cells were searched by immunohistochemistry on tissue sections from the iliac crest biopsies and by flow cytometry on cell suspensions from the rib segments.


Isolated tumor cells were detected in the rib segments of ten patients. In all cases the Jamshidi needle biopsy was not diagnostic.


Our results suggest that, if the diagnosis of bone marrow isolated tumor cells has clinical relevance, the preoperative assessment should be performed by rib segment resection or methods other than iliac crest aspirate or biopsy. Further investigation is needed to determine whether isolated tumor cells have a preferential spread to chest bones other than distant bone sites.

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