Effects of different immunolabeling techniques on the detection of small-cell lung cancer cells in bone marrow

Giuseppe Pelosi, Felice Pasini, Flavia Pavanel, Enrica Bresaola, Ivana Schiavon, Antonio Iannucci

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Recent reports have suggested that the immunodetection of tumor cells in bone marrow of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) patients is by far more effective than traditional cytohistological methods and that this may be clinically relevant. This study aimed to evaluate whether the level of detection of tumor cells in bone marrow is affected by different immunostaining methods. Using two anti-NCAM monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), we compared four different 'sandwich' methods on cytospin preparations of the N592 human SCLC cell line and of bone marrow aspirates from 37 SCLC patients. Our data indicate that the combination of the alkaline phosphatase-anti- alkaline phosphatase and streptavidin-biotin-alkaline phosphatase complex methods provides the best results in terms of sensitivity and specificity, and of intensity of immunoreaction and absence of staining background. Moreover, bone marrow micrometastases detected by this method were prognostically relevant and identified, among patients with apparently limited disease according to conventional staging procedures, a subgroup with shorter survival. We suggest that the choice of a sensitive immunostaining technique may significantly increase the detection rate of SCLC cells in bone marrow, mirroring the biological aggressiveness of the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1075-1087
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999


  • Alkaline phosphatase
  • Amplification
  • Bone marrow
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Prognosis
  • Small-cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Cell Biology


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