Direct evidence of tumour seeding in distant organs at the time of surgery for gastric cancer is not available. An immunocytochemical assay for epithelial cytokeratin protein may fill this gap since it is a feature of epithelial cells that would not normally be present in bone marrow. The bone marrow of 46 patients with primary gastric cancer was examined for tumour cells, using immunocytochemical techniques and antibody reacting with cytokeratin, a component of the intracytoplasmic network of intermediate filaments. The monoclonal antibody CK2 recognises a single cytokeratin polypeptide (human cytokeratin no. 18) commonly present in epithelial cells. The expression of tumour-suppressor genes p53 and RB for the primary lesion was also determined using the monoclonal antibodies PAb 1801 and 3H9 respectively, and the proliferating activity was determined by the Ki-67 antigen labelling index for MIB-1 antibody staining. Of these 46 patients, 15 (32.6%) presented with cytokeratin-positive cells at the time of primary surgery. The positive findings were related to the undifferentiated tissue type and to the prominent depth of invasion, but not to other clinicopathological factors. In 2 of 15 (13.3%) patients, the depth of invasion was limited to the mucosa. The metastatic potential to bone marrow did not relate to expressions of p53 and RB genes, or to the proliferating activity of MIB-1 staining for the primary lesion of gastric cancer. As tumour cells in bone marrow are indicative of the general disseminative capability of an individual tumour, this technique may be useful for identifying patients at high risk of metastasis from a gastric tumour.
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Maehara, Y., Yamamoto, M., Oda, S. et al. Cytokeratin-positive cells in bone marrow for identifying distant micrometastasis of gastric cancer. Br J Cancer 73, 83–87 (1996) doi:10.1038/bjc.1996.15
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