Increased detection of mammary carcinoma cells in marrow smears using antisera to epithelial membrane antigen

Br J Cancer. 1981 Jul;44(1):85-90. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1981.152.


We have developed a technique for the immunocytochemical staining of marrow smears using antiserum to epithelial membrane antigen (EMA). This membrane component is confined to, but widely distributed in, epithelial tissues and tumours derived from them, and is strongly expressed by infiltrating breast carcinoma cells. Marrow aspirates from patients with both early and metastatic breast cancer have been examined, and the results of immunocytochemical staining compared with conventional cytology and histology. Staining with antiserum to EMA enabled us to detect small numbers of carcinoma cells, and increased the yield of positive samples. Furthermore, using this technique, we found malignant cells in the marrow of patients with primary breast cancer with no other evidence of metastatic disease. Thus immunocytochemical staining for EMA may be of value in the detection of micrometastases in patients with primary breast carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Bone Marrow / immunology
  • Bone Marrow / pathology*
  • Bone Neoplasms / immunology
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Sera
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Immune Sera