Characterization of tumor cells using a medical wire for capturing circulating tumor cells: A 3D approach based on immunofluorescence and DNA FISH

Giulia Gallerani, Claudia Cocchi, Martine Bocchini, Filippo Piccinini, Francesco Fabbri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are associated with poor survival in metastatic cancer. Their identification, phenotyping, and genotyping could lead to a better understanding of tumor heterogeneity and thus facilitate the selection of patients for personalized treatment. However, this is hampered because of the rarity of CTCs. We present an innovative approach for sampling a high volume of the patient blood and obtaining information about presence, phenotype, and gene translocation of CTCs. The method combines immunofluorescence staining and DNA fluorescent-in-situ-hybridization (DNA FISH) and is based on a functionalized medical wire. This wire is an innovative device that permits the in vivo isolation of CTCs from a large volume of peripheral blood. The blood volume screened by a 30-min administration of the wire is approximately 1.5-3 L. To demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) expression and the chromosomal translocation of the ALK gene were determined in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines captured by the functionalized wire and stained with an immuno-DNA FISH approach. Our main challenge was to perform the assay on a 3D structure, the functionalized wire, and to determine immuno-phenotype and FISH signals on this support using a conventional fluorescence microscope. The results obtained indicate that catching CTCs and analyzing their phenotype and chromosomal rearrangement could potentially represent a new companion diagnostic approach and provide an innovative strategy for improving personalized cancer treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56936
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number130
Publication statusPublished - Dec 21 2017


  • 3D analysis
  • ALK gene
  • Cancer biology
  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Functionalized medical wire
  • Image analysis
  • Immunofluorescence
  • Issue 130
  • Microscopy
  • Oncology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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