Tumor Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 435–441 | Cite as

Activated macrophages containing tumor marker in colon carcinoma: immunohistochemical proof of a concept

  • T. J. E. Faber
  • D. Japink
  • M. P. G. Leers
  • M. N. Sosef
  • M. F. von Meyenfeldt
  • M. Nap
Research Article


The presence of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)-containing activated macrophages has been demonstrated in peripheral blood from patients with colorectal carcinoma. Macrophages migrate from the circulation into the tissue, phagocytose debris, and return to the bloodstream. Hence it seems likely that activated macrophages containing tumor debris, i.e., tumor marker, are present in the stroma of colorectal carcinoma. After phagocytosis, they could follow a hematogenic or lymphogenic route to the peripheral blood. The aim of this study is to assess the presence of tumor marker-containing activated macrophages in the stroma of colon carcinoma and in regional lymph nodes. From 10 cases of colon carcinoma, samples of tumor tissue and metastasis-free lymph nodes were cut in serial sections and stained for CD68 to identify macrophages and for CEA, cytokeratin, or M30 presence. Slides were digitalised and visually inspected using two monitors, comparing the CD68 stain to the tumor marker stain to evaluate the presence of tumor marker-positive macrophages. Macrophages containing tumor marker could be identified in tumor stroma and in metastasis-free regional lymph nodes. The distribution varied for the different markers, CEA-positive macrophages being most abundant. The presence of macrophages containing tumor marker in the tumor stroma and lymph nodes from patients with colon carcinoma could be confirmed in this series using serial immunohistochemistry. This finding supports the concept of activated macrophages, after phagocytosing cell debris, being transported or migrating through the lymphatic system. These results support the potential of tumor marker-containing macrophages to serve as a marker for diagnosis and follow-up of colon cancer patients.


Macrophages Carcinoembryonic antigen Tumor marker Immunohistochemistry Phagocytosis Colon carcinoma 


Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. J. E. Faber
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • D. Japink
    • 1
    • 4
  • M. P. G. Leers
    • 3
  • M. N. Sosef
    • 1
  • M. F. von Meyenfeldt
    • 4
  • M. Nap
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General SurgeryAtrium Medical Center ParkstadHeerlenNetherlands
  2. 2.Department of Clinical PathologyAtrium Medical Center ParkstadHeerlenNetherlands
  3. 3.Department of Clinical Chemistry and HematologyAtrium Medical Center ParkstadHeerlenNetherlands
  4. 4.Department of General SurgeryMaastricht University Medical CenterMaastrichtNetherlands

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