Intracellular esterase activity in living cells may distinguish between metastatic and tumor-free lymph nodes
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- Afrimzon, E., Deutsch, A., Shafran, Y. et al. Clin Exp Metastasis (2008) 25: 213. doi:10.1007/s10585-007-9135-1
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Background One of the major clinical problems in breast cancer detection is the relatively high incidence of occult lymph node metastases undetectable by standard procedures. Since the ascertainment of breast cancer stage determines the following treatment, such a “hypo-diagnosis” leads to inadequate therapy, and hence is detrimental for the outcome and survival of the patients. The purpose of our study was to investigate functional metabolic characteristics of living cells derived from metastatic and tumor-free lymph nodes of breast cancer (BC) patients. Methods Our methodology is based on the ability of living cells to hydrolyze fluorescein diacetate (FDA) by intracellular esterases and on the association of FDA hydrolysis rates with a specific cell status, both in physiological and pathological conditions. Results The present study demonstrates a significant difference in the ability to utilize FDA by lymph node cells derived from metastatic and tumor-free lymph nodes in general average, as well as in the metastatic and tumor-free lymph nodes of individual patients. Cells from metastatic lymph nodes had a higher capacity for FDA hydrolysis, and increased this activity after additional activation by autologous tumor tissue (tt). The association between increased FDA hydrolysis rate and activated T lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells (APC) was shown. Conclusion The results of the present study may contribute to predicting the risk of involvement of seemingly “tumor-free” axillary lymph nodes in occult metastatic processes, and to reducing false-negative results of axillary examination.