• Nuclear DNA content;
  • breast cancer;
  • cell cycle;
  • aneuploidy;
  • flow cytometry


Flow cytometric analysis of DNA ploidy and S-phase fraction (SPF) from paraffin-embedded tumors has become an important diagnostic and prognostic tool in clinical pathology and investigative oncology. The present study aimed at elucidating the reliability of the method. About 90% of the 1,400 paraffine-mbedded tumors analyzed were evaluable for DNA index and about 70% for SPF, although considerable differences between various tumor types were detected. The within-assay coefficients of variation for determination of tumor DNA index and SPF were 2% and 6%, respectively. Intratumor variation in DNA index was observed in 24% of breast and in 21% of ovarian carcinomas and variation in SPF in 36% and 29% of the respective tumors. Intratumor variation in SPF was greatest in DNA-diploid tumors, which may indicate that SPF values in these tumors may be less reliable owing to variations in the proportions of tumor and nontumor cells. If the methodological variation and the intratumor variation were taken into account, there was a good correlation between DNA indices (r = 0.980) and between SPF values (r = 0.794) obtained from fresh and paraffin-embedded tumors. It is concluded that accurate determination of DNA index and SPF from paraffin-embedded tumors is possible in the majority of cases. Regardless of the type of starting material used for DNA flow cytometry it is advantageous to study several samples from each tumor to account for the intratumor heterogeneity.