Detection of CK19, CK20 and EGFR mRNAs in peripheral blood of carcinoma patients: correlation with clinical stage of disease

Oncol Rep. Jan-Feb 2003;10(1):217-22.


Expression of genes such as cytokeratin 19 (CK19), cytokeratin 20 (CK20) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been investigated at mRNA level in peripheral blood of carcinoma patients to detect the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTC). We performed this study because recent literature emphasizes that the importance of CK19, 20 and EGFR mRNAs in CTC as prognostic factors remains unclear especially for breast, head and neck and colon cancer patients. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) followed by Southern blot hybridization was performed in blood samples from 47 subjects (12 colorectal, 15 head and neck and 20 breast carcinoma patients), as well as in 35 healthy donors. The CK19 expression was found in 36/47 patients (9 colorectal, 9 head and neck and 18 breast cancer), two patients (one affected by colorectal and one by head and neck cancer) were positive for CK20 whereas EGFR was found expressed in 9 patients (3 colorectal, 5 head and neck and one breast cancer). Seven of 35 and 4/35 healthy donors displayed positivity for the expression of CK19 and CK20 genes respectively, whereas no EGFR mRNA was found in this group. The correlation of the detection of CTC in peripheral blood with progression of the disease in a follow-up period of 40 months did not show any prognostic value to the presence of mRNAs of these biomarkers in blood. We believe that research should be addressed, at least for breast cancer, to the identification of occult metastases in sentinel lymph nodes, such as recently performed in melanoma patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / blood*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / genetics*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratins / genetics*
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / blood*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / blood
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA Primers
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Keratins
  • ErbB Receptors