Surgical maneuvers enhance molecular detection of circulating tumor cells during gastric cancer surgery

Ann Surg. 2001 Feb;233(2):189-94. doi: 10.1097/00000658-200102000-00007.


Objective: To evaluate the relation between the presence of cancer cells in blood according to the time course during a surgical procedure and liver metastases in patients with gastric cancer.

Summary background data: Several studies have reported on the detection of circulating cancer cells in blood by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). However, few reports have examined the relation between molecular detection of circulating cancer cells according to the time course during a surgical procedure and blood-borne metastases.

Methods: Blood samples from 57 patients with gastric cancer were obtained from the portal vein, peripheral artery, and superior vena cava before and after tumor dissection. After total RNA was extracted from each blood sample, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)-specific RT-PCR was performed.

Results: CEA-mRNA was detected in the blood of 21 (36.8%) of the 57 patients. CEA-mRNA was not detected in the blood obtained from 15 healthy volunteers and 15 patients with benign disease. The positive rate increased in proportion to the depth of tumor. The incidence of positive CEA-mRNA did not differ among the various sites of blood sampling. The appearance of circulating cancer cells was related to the surgical maneuver. A significant relation was found between the detection of CEA-mRNA and blood-borne metastases.

Conclusions: A high incidence of positive CEA-mRNA was found in the blood during gastric cancer surgery. Surgical maneuvers are a possible cause of hematogenous metastasis. The authors found that patients with positive CEA-mRNA had a high risk of blood-borne metastasis even after curative resection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / blood
  • Female
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating*
  • RNA, Messenger / blood
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / blood
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / surgery*


  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • RNA, Messenger