Detection of circulating tumor cells in carcinoma patients by a novel epidermal growth factor receptor reverse transcription-PCR assay

Antonella De Luca, Sandro Pignata, Amelia Casamassimi, Antonio D'Antonio, Cesare Gridelli, Antonio Rossi, Francesco Cremona, Valerio Parisi, Andrea De Matteis, Nicola Normanno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is overexpressed in 50-70% of human primary breast, lung, and colon carcinomas, whereas it is not usually expressed in hematopoietic cells. We developed a novel reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR)-Southern blot assay for the detection of circulating, EGFR mRNA-expressing tumor cells in carcinoma patients. The assay was set up by increasing the amount of cDNA step by step in the PCR reaction. The highest sensitivity and specificity were found when using 800 ng of cDNA in the PCR reaction. Peripheral blood samples from 91 patients with either colon (38), lung (30), or breast (23) carcinomas and from 38 healthy volunteers were analyzed. EGFR transcripts were found in 44 of 75 (59%) patients with metastatic carcinoma and in 4 of 38 (10.5%) healthy donors (P <0.001; χ2 test). The expression of EGFR, cytokeratin 19, and carcinoembryonic antigen mRNA in blood samples from patients with metastatic colon carcinoma was compared. EGFR, cytokeratin 19, and carcinoembryonic antigen transcripts were found in 8 of 11 (73%), 3 of 11 (27%), and 5 of 11 (45%) patients, respectively. Furthermore, two of seven (29%) Dukes' B and five of nine (55%) Dukes' C colon carcinoma patients were found to express EGFR mRNA in the peripheral blood. All patients that expressed EGFR transcripts in the peripheral blood were found to express the EGFR protein in the corresponding primary carcinoma, as assessed by immunohistochemistry. These data suggest that the EGFR assay that we developed is a highly specific and sensitive technique to detect circulating tumor cells in patients affected by different carcinoma types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1444
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Volume6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

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