Purpose: We describe a method to improve tumor cell detection compared to currently available immunocytochemical methods by using immunomagnetic cell enrichment.
Materials and methods: Two different methods of immunomagnetic cell enrichment using antibody coated magnetic beads were tested and compared with unenriched immunocytochemistry. One method was positive selection of epithelial cells from mononuclear cells with the antiepithelial antibody BER-EP4 and the other was depletion of mononuclear cells with the antileukocyte antibody CD45. Mononuclear cells were isolated from peripheral blood by density centrifugation and various numbers of tumor cells were added. The 5 different cell lines from urological malignancies used in the study were DU-145, RT-4, CAKI-2, KTCTL-2 and KTCTL-30. Following incubation of cell suspensions with the beads, cell separation was performed in a magnetic field. After centrifugation on glass slides immunocytochemical staining for cytokeratin was performed. A total of 112 experiments were completed and negative controls were obtained.
Results: The number of tumor cells detected by positive selection and depletion was significantly higher than by immunocytochemistry (p <0.001). The median enrichment factor and tumor cell recovery rate for positive selection and depletion were 15.3 and 61.2%, and 13.0 and 57.3%, respectively (not significant). With less than 1 tumor cell suspended in 106 mononuclear cells, the probability of tumor cell detection was 23% for immunocytochemistry alone and 93.3% for both enrichment methods (p <0.01). No false-positive results were observed.
Conclusions: Compared to immunocytochemistry, immunomagnetic cell enrichment significantly improves the sensitivity of detection of epithelial cells added to mononuclear cells. Both methods of enrichment were equally effective and may be important for clinical practice in the future.