Genotyping for polymorphic drug metabolizing enzymes from paraffin-embedded and immunohistochemically stained tumor samples

Pharmacogenetics. 2003 Aug;13(8):501-7. doi: 10.1097/00008571-200308000-00008.


Objectives: Paraffin-embedded tumor samples are valuable in the study of cancer for routine staging, tumor marker analysis, and in retrospective studies to test new prognostic and predictive biomarkers. Their utility in retrospective pharmacogenetic analysis of clinical trials has yet to be evaluated. We set out to establish genotyping methods for relevant genes from archival tumor samples and determine if fixation, processing or somatic changes in the tumor might affect our ability to identify germ-line polymorphisms.

Methods and results: To establish the assays, paraffin blocks were made using pellets prepared from eight tumor cell lines. DNA was isolated from viable cells and from sections from these blocks, and genotyped for polymorphisms in CYP2C8, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, CYP3A5 and MDR1 using conventional PCR-RFLP assays. This demonstrated that fixation and processing did not alter the genotypes obtained (100% concordance). Next, sections were obtained from paraffin-embedded archival breast samples from 10 patients for whom gDNA isolated from peripheral blood was available for comparison. Concordance was complete with the same genotype being obtained for 100% of the samples tested. Attempts to extend these methods for the study of hematoxylin/eosin or immunohistochemically stained sections were not successful since the staining inhibited the PCR reactions. Only 25 of 50 samples were successfully amplified and of those only 14 produced accurate genotypes.

Conclusions: Accurate genetic testing for polymorphisms in several genes of pharmacogenetic importance can be obtained from archival paraffin-embedded tumor samples. Thus, pharmacogenetic analysis can be applied to existing cancer therapy trials to test associations between these polymorphisms and treatment response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • DNA Primers
  • Genotype*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length


  • DNA Primers
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System