Tumor cell detection in peripheral blood of patients with testicular cancer

P. Steffensa, N. Goldhorn a, S. Waschütza a, E. Schnakenberg a, A. Krehan a

aAdnaGen AG, Hannover-Langenhagen, Lower Saxony Germany

Aim: Occurrence of tumor cells in the peripheral blood of individuals suffering from testicular cancer may serve as an early indication that the primary tumor has evaded from its tissue of origin. Despite defense mechanisms of the organism individual cancer cells may attach in distant regions and form colonies as initial steps of metastasis. Methods: Early detection of metastatic potential can be estimated by detecting tumor cells in blood circulation. Sensitivity is one of the main objectives for any method in this field. By means of expression markers on mRNA-basis that are detected and amplified specifically highest sensitivity is possible. Most techniques described, however, encounter an increasing problem of specificity due to background from illegitimate transcription. This can be overcome by specific selection of non-blood cells. Results: AdnaGen developed a combined method of tumor cell selection and their specific detection and identification on basis of tumor-type specific expression markers. The method proved valid when recurrence of testicular cancer was investigated: the success of therapy was shown in most cases by lack of tumor cells indicating signals. In individual cases residual tumor cells in the blood could be detected even at late stages of therapy, indicating a yet not absolutely complete success of treatment. In two cases of high risk patients with a known poor response to chemotherapy cancer cells could be detected again soon after therapy ended. Conclusions: These procedures provide a sensitive and valuable method to detect tumor cells at an early stage of tumor progression.

KEY WORDS: metastasis, expression markers, therapy.

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Paper presented at the International Symposium on Predictive Oncology and Intervention Strategies; Paris, France; February 9 - 12, 2002; in the section on Metastasis.