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Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010 Apr;59(4):619-27. doi: 10.1007/s00262-009-0814-4. Epub 2010 Jan 6.

Serum is not required for ex vivo IFN-gamma ELISPOT: a collaborative study of different protocols from the European CIMT Immunoguiding Program.

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Cancer Sciences Division, Southampton University Hospitals, Southampton, UK.


The Cancer Immunotherapy Immunoguiding Program has conducted an IFN-gamma ELISPOT proficiency panel to examine the influence of serum supplementation of test media on assay performance. Sixteen European laboratories analyzed the same PBMC samples using different locally established protocols. Participants generated two simultaneous data sets-one using medium supplemented with serum and one without serum. Performances of the two test conditions were compared by quantifying: (1) the number of viable cells, (2) background spot formation induced in the medium only control and (3) the ability to detect antigen-specific T cell responses. The study demonstrated that the number of viable cells recovered and the overall background spot production were not significantly different between the two conditions. Furthermore, overall laboratory performance was equivalent for the two test conditions; 11 out of 16 laboratories reported equal or greater detection rates using serum-free medium, while 5 laboratories reported decreased detections rates under serum-free conditions. These results show that good performance of the IFN-gamma ELISPOT assay can be achieved under serum-free conditions. Optimization of the protocol for serum-free conditions should result in excellent detection rates and eliminate the requirement of serum batch and stability testing, allowing further harmonization of the assay.

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