Specific isolation of disseminated cancer cells: a new method permitting sensitive detection of target molecules of diagnostic and therapeutic value

Clin Exp Metastasis. 2007;24(5):317-27. doi: 10.1007/s10585-006-9052-8. Epub 2007 May 26.


Molecular studies of rare cells, such as circulating cancer cells, require efficient pre-enrichment steps to obtain a pure population of target cells for further characterization. We have developed a two-step approach, starting with immunomagnetic enrichment, followed by specific isolation of individual, easily identifiable bead-rosetted target cells using a new semi-automated CellPick system. With this procedure, 1-50 live target cells can now be isolated. As a model system, we spiked a small number of tumor cells into millions of normal mononuclear cells (MNCs). Efficient isolation of pure target cells was obtained by use of the CellPick system, and the nature of isolated, bead-rosetted cells was verified by use of FISH. Single breast cancer cells were picked directly into an RNA preserving lysis buffer, reverse transcribed, and PCR amplified with two cDNA specific primer sets. With the isolated cells we consistently obtained both ubiquitously expressed and tumor cell specific PCR products. We also performed a successful mutation analysis of single cells using PCR and cycling temperature capillary electrophoresis (CTCE). This may have significant clinical implications in cancer and in other diseases, e.g. in characterizing micrometastatic cancer cells in blood and lymph nodes to help identifying patients who most likely will respond to therapies like tyrosine kinase inhibitors and compounds targeting specific mutations. By use of the CellPick system it is possible to specifically isolate bead-rosetted or otherwise labelled target cells from a heterogeneous cell population for further molecular characterization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Electrophoresis, Capillary
  • Humans
  • Immunomagnetic Separation / instrumentation
  • Immunomagnetic Separation / methods*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / cytology
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Biomarkers, Tumor