Detection of germ cell tumor cells in apheresis products using polymerase chain reaction

Yi Fan, Lawrence Einhorn, Scott Saxman, Barry Katz, Rafat Abonour, Kenneth Cornetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The contamination of apheresis products with tumor cells was evaluated in patients undergoing autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplantation for germ cell tumors. A blinded, retrospective analysis was performed on 63 apheresis products from 28 patients using the PCR and primers for β human chorionic gonadotropin (β-HCG). Of the 20 patients with β-HCG-secreting tumors, 8 apheresis products from 7 patients were PCR positive. PCR was negative in the 8 patients whose tumors did not secrete β-HCG. Twenty-two apheresis products from patients with lymphoma and breast cancer were negative for β-HCG expression. Evaluating the 20 patients with β-HCG- secreting tumors, 100% of PCR-positive patients had elevated serum β-HCG at the time of apheresis compared to 46.2% of PCR-negative patients (P = 0.04). A positive PCR was also associated with a higher serum β-HCG at diagnosis (P = 0.03). Patients receiving a PCR-positive product had a higher relapse rate (85.7 versus 61.5%) and were more likely to have visceral metastasis (100 versus 61.5%), although the numbers did not reach statistical significance (P = 0.35 and 0.11, respectively). The finding of β-HCG mRNA in apheresis products strongly suggests the presence of circulating tumor cells in a significant number of germ cell patients undergoing autologous transplantation. This assay may be useful in monitoring attempts at tumor cell depletion and in developing improved prognostic models for assessing risk of relapse after transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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