, Volume 105, Issue 6, pp 479-485

Nuclear image analysis of immunohistochemically stained cells in breast carcinomas

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Hitherto, the relationship between malignancy-associated morphological features in single tumour cells and the expression of markers indicating functional properties of these cells remained widely unknown. This study was aimed at describing differences in the size, shape and chromatin structure between tumour cells with different marker expression for progesterone receptors (PgR) and p53. Two series of breast cancers, consisting of 50 PgR-positive, and 39 p53-negative and 49 p53-positive mammary carcinomas, were investigated. The immunohistochemical staining was performed on paraffin sections using 3-amino-9-ethylcarbazole as the chromogenic substrate. By means of a cytometry workstation equipped with a computer-controlled motorised scanning stage, about 500 positive and negative tumour cells in each case were localised in the microscope and categorised by a scoring system for their staining intensity. After destaining, the tissue sections were Feulgen-stained. Then, all the tumour cells were relocated automatically and analysed by high resolution image cytometry. Among the numerous size, shape, and texture features used in the system, several variables of the nuclear contour and chromatin structure were found to be significantly different between the positive and negative tumour cell populations. Nuclei without PgR had more malignancy-associated morphological features than PgR-positive cells. Whereas p53-negative nuclei had a higher degree of regularity, their positive counterparts exhibited higher DNA ploidy values.