Automatic detection and genetic profiling of disseminated neuroblastoma cells.
BACKGROUND: Rare tumor cells circulating in the hematopoietic system can escape identification. On the other hand, the nature of these cells, positive for an immunologiCal tumor marker, cannot be determined without any genetic information. PROCEDURE: To overcome these problems a novel computer assisted scanning system for automatic cell search, analysis, and sequential repositioning was developed. This system allows an exact quantitative analysis of rare tumor cells in the bone marrow and peripheral blood by sequential immunological and molecular cytogenetic characterization. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: In that virtually all tumor cells in a mixing experiment could be recovered unambiguously, we can conclude that the sensitivity of this approach is set by the number of cells available for analysis. Sequential FISH analyses of immunologically positive cells improve both the specificity and the sensitivity of the microscopic minimal residual disease detection.