Flow-cytometric determination of tumor cells in lymph nodes

Wainer Zoli, F. Barzanti, M. Dal Susino, F. De Paola, A. Tesei, L. Ricotti, F. Padovani, F. Renò, D. Amadori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In solid tumors, metastasis occurs through the dissemination of tumor cells in the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. In particular, lymph node infiltration gives useful prognostic information and represents one of the most important factors for selecting the type of clinical treatment in disease management. Furthermore, the analysis of lymph node infiltration has become important for identifying patients with breast cancer or malignant melanoma who may be candidates for regional lymph node dissection. Tumor cells in lymph nodes are currently identified in tissue sections using morphological and immunohistochemical analyses, but these approaches are time-consuming, and micrometastases may escape detection. The aim of the present study was to define the potential of a flow cytometric (FCM) determination based on cell size and autofluorescence to shorten the time required for lymph node analysis. The sensitivity of the FCM approach, defined on mixtures of tumor cells from established cell lines and peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) at different concentrations, was 1 tumor cell/1,000 PBLs. FCM analysis was performed on 89 lymph nodes, 29 from breast, 41 from lung and 19 from colon cancer patients. Agreement between FCM and morphological results, used as gold standard, was observed in 83% of the cases, and there was a 90% sensitivity to the FCM approach for each tumor type. Disagreement was observed for 15 lymph nodes and was due, in the majority of cases (80%), to FCM-positive and morphologically negative results. A large number of patients and a more accurate pathological examination of consecutive histological sections of lymph nodes are needed to further evaluate the validity of the FCM approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-135
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Flow cytometry
  • Human solid tumors
  • Lymph nodes
  • Tumor cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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