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Clin Cancer Res. 2002 Feb;8(2):428-32.

Breast epithelium procurement from stereotactic core biopsy washings: flow cytometry-sorted cell count analysis.

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Department of Experimental Pathology, 501 Cell and Virus Building, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.



Molecular studies of breast lesions have been constrained by difficulties in procuring adequate tissues for analyses. Standard procedures are restricted to larger, palpable masses or the use of paraffin-embedded materials, precluding facile procurement of fresh specimens of early lesions. We describe a study to determine the yield and characteristics of sorted cell populations retrieved in core needle biopsy specimen rinses from a spectrum of breast lesions.


Cells from 114 consecutive stereotactic core biopsies of mammographic lesions released into saline washes were submitted for flow cytometric analysis. For each specimen, epithelial cells were separated from stromal and blood tissue based on the presence of cytokeratin 8 and 18 markers. Epithelial cell yields based on pathological diagnoses of the biopsy specimen, patient age, and mammographic appearance of the lesion were determined.


Biopsies containing malignant lesions yielded significantly higher numbers of cells than were obtained from benign lesion biopsies. Significantly greater cell counts were observed from lesions from women age 50 or above compared with those of younger women. Mammographic density surrounding the biopsy site, the mammographic appearance of the lesion, and the number of cores taken at the time of biopsy appeared to have little effect on the yield of epithelial cells.


We demonstrate the use of flow cytometric sorting of stereotactic core needle biopsy washes from lesions spanning the spectrum of breast pathology to obtain epithelial cells in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements of a variety of molecular and genetic analyses.

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