Method for semi-automated microscopy of filtration-enriched circulating tumor cells


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Abstract Background Circulating tumor cell (CTC)-filtration methods capture high numbers of CTCs in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and metastatic prostate cancer (mPCa) patients, and hold promise as a non-invasive technique for treatment selection and disease monitoring. However filters have drawbacks that make the automation of microscopy challenging. We report the semi-automated microscopy method we developed to analyze filtration-enriched CTCs from NSCLC and mPCa patients. Methods Spiked cell lines in normal blood and CTCs were enriched by ISET (isolation by size of epithelial tumor cells). Fluorescent staining was carried out using epithelial (pan-cytokeratins, EpCAM), mesenchymal (vimentin, N-cadherin), leukocyte (CD45) markers and DAPI. Cytomorphological staining was carried out with Mayer-Hemalun or Diff-Quik. ALK-, ROS1-, ERG-rearrangement were detected by filter-adapted-FISH (FA-FISH). Microscopy was carried out using an Ariol scanner. Results Two combined assays were developed. The first assay sequentially combined four-color fluorescent staining, scanning, automated selection of CD45− cells, cytomorphological staining, then scanning and analysis of CD45− cell phenotypical and cytomorphological characteristics. CD45− cell selection was based on DAPI and CD45 intensity, and a nuclear area >55 μm2. The second assay sequentially combined fluorescent staining, automated selection of CD45− cells, FISH scanning on CD45− cells, then analysis of CD45− cell FISH signals. Specific scanning parameters were developed to deal with the uneven surface of filters and CTC characteristics. Thirty z-stacks spaced 0.6 μm apart were defined as the optimal setting, scanning 82 %, 91 %, and 95 % of CTCs in ALK-, ROS1-, and ERG-rearranged patients respectively. A multi-exposure protocol consisting of three separate exposure times for green and red fluorochromes was optimized to analyze the intensity, size and thickness of FISH signals. Conclusions The semi-automated microscopy method reported here increases the feasibility and reliability of filtration-enriched CTC assays and can help progress towards their validation and translation to the clinic.
Date made available14 Jul 2016

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