Comprehensive in situ co-detection of aneuploid circulating endothelial and tumor cells
Conventional circulating tumor cell (CTC) detection strategies rely on cell surface marker EpCAM and intracellular cytokeratins (CKs) for isolation and identification, respectively. Application of such methods is considerably limited by inherent heterogeneous and dynamic expression or absence of EpCAM and/or CKs in CTCs. Here, we report a novel strategy, integrating antigen-independent subtraction enrichment and immunostaining-FISH (SE-iFISH), to detect a variety of aneuploid circulating rare cells (CRCs), including CTCs and circulating tumor endothelial cells (CECs). Enriched CRCs, maintained at high viability and suitable for primary tumor cell culture, are comprehensively characterized by in situ co-examination of chromosome aneuploidy by FISH and immunostaining of multiple biomarkers displayed in diverse fluorescence channels. We described and quantified for the first time the existence of individual aneuploid CD31+ CECs and co-existence of "fusion clusters" of endothelial-epithelial aneuploid tumor cells among enriched non-hematopoietic CRCs. Hence, SE-iFISH is feasible for efficient co-detection and in situ phenotypic and karyotypic characterization as well as quantification of various CRCs, allowing for their classification into diverse subtypes upon biomarker expression and chromosome ploidy. Enhanced SE-iFISH technology, assisted by the Metafer-iFISH automated CRC imaging system, provides a platform for the analysis of potential contributions of each subtype of CRCs to distinct clinical outcome.