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Int J Cancer. 2006 Jul 15;119(2):373-9.

Development of a high-throughput membrane-array method for molecular diagnosis of circulating tumor cells in patients with gastric cancers.

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MedicoGenomic Research Center, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


Recently several noninvasive methods have been employed to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in cancer patients. In this study, we have developed a highly sensitive, high-throughput colorimetric membrane-array method that was designed to detect a panel of mRNA markers including human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), cytrokeratin-19 (CK-19), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and mucin 1 (MUC1) mRNA for the presence of CTCs in the peripheral blood of patients with gastric cancer (GC). Digoxigenin-labeled cDNA targets synthesized following total RNA isolation from peripheral blood samples of 64 GC patients and 80 healthy individuals were subjected to membrane-array hybridization. The results showed that membrane array could positively detect 5 cancer cells/ml of peripheral blood in GC cell-dilution experiments. The sensitivity, specificity and diagnostic accuracy for hTERT, CK-19, CEA and MUC1 mRNA ranged from 78.1% to 82.8%, 76.3% to 85% and 81.3% to 83.3%, respectively. Both CEA and MUC1 mRNA expression was correlated significantly with all malignant biological properties of GC, such as macroscopic type, depth of tumor invasion, lymph-node metastasis, TNM stage and coexisting distant metastasis (all p < 0.05). Using these 4 markers in combination, the sensitivity, specificity and diagnostic accuracy of membrane array were raised to 89.1%, 91.3% and 90.3%, respectively. The expression of all 4 mRNA markers was an independent predictor for postoperative recurrence/metastasis. GC patients with the expression of all the 4 mRNA markers showed a poorer survival rate than those without the expression of any 1 mRNA marker (p = 0.0223). These findings demonstrated that our membrane-array method could detect CTCs in the circulation of GC patients with considerably high sensitivity and specificity. The identification of CTCs in the peripheral blood may be useful in the auxiliary cancer diagnostics or postoperative surveillance of GC patients for recurrence/metastasis.

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