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Allgayer, Heike; Heiss, Markus Maria; Riesenberg, Rainer; Babic, Rudolf; Jauch, Karl-Walter und Schildberg, Friedrich Wilhelm (1997): Immunocytochemical Phenotyping of Disseminated Tumor Cells in Bone Marrow by uPA Receptor and CK18: Investigation of Sensitivity and Specificity of an Immunogold/Alkaline Phosphatase Double Staining Protocol. In: Journal of Histochemistry & Cytochemistry, Vol. 45, Nr. 2: S. 203-212




Phenotyping of cytokeratin (CK) 18-positive cells in bone marrow is gaining increasing importance for future prognostic screening of carcinoma patients. Urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPA-R) is one example of a potential aggressive marker for those cells. However, a valid and reliable double staining method is needed. Using monoclonal antibodies against uPA-R and CK18, we modified an immunogold/alkaline phosphatase double staining protocol. UPA-R/CK18-positive tumor cell controls exhibited black uPA-R staining in 15–80 of cases and red CK18 staining in almost 100 of tumor cells. Isotype- and cross-matched controls were completely negative. Bone marrow from healthy donors was always CK18-negative. Reproducibility of CK18-positive cell detection was estimated in a series of specimens from 61 gastric cancer patients comparatively stained with the single alkaline phosphatase-anti-alkaline phosphatase (APAAP) and our double staining method (106 bone marrow cells/patient). In four cases, double staining could not reproduce CK18-positive cells. In 34 cases it revealed fewer or equal numbers, and in 23 cases more CK18-positive cells than the APAAP method. Overall quantitative analysis of detected cell numbers (838 in APAAP, range 1–280 in 106; double staining 808, range 0–253) demonstrated relative reproducibility of APAAP results by double staining of 97. Correlation of results between both methods was significant (p<0.001, linear regression). Sensitivity of double staining tested in logarithmic tumor cell dilutions was one CK18-positive cell in 300,000. Specific uPA-R staining was seen on CK18-positive cells in bone marrow from 29 of 61 patients, and also on single surrounding bone marrow cells. To test the specificity of this staining, bone marrow cytospins from 10 patients without tumor disease were stained for uPA-R with the APAAP method. uPA-R expression was confirmed in all 10 cases, with a mean of 6.5 uPA-R-positive cells in 1000 bone marrow cells (SEM 1.2). These results suggest that our double staining protocol is a sensitive, reproducible, and specific method for routine uPA-R phenotyping of disseminated CK18-positive cells in bone marrow of carcinoma patients.