Detection of circulating tumour cells and nodal metastasis by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction technique

Br J Surg. 1997 Jun;84(6):834-9.


Background: In the search for occult metastases in lymph nodes or circulating tumour cells, a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay was developed to detect tumour-specific splice variants of the transcript of the CD44 gene. The assay was highly sensitive and could detect ten tumour cell per 10(5) leucocytes.

Methods: RNA was purified from peripheral blood (n = 24) and regional lymph nodes (n = 14) from patients with colorectal cancer. Complementary DNA was made and amplified using primers specific for the CD44 gene. Southern blotting with exon-specific probes was used to enhance the sensitivity.

Results: Tumour cells were detected in peripheral blood samples in four patients and lymph nodes in nine, in one of whom conventional histology had not detected tumour cells.

Conclusion: This technique may be useful in the early diagnosis of primary or metastatic tumours, in assessing prognosis and in detecting residual disease after treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Electrophoresis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / analysis*
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • RNA, Neoplasm