The prognosis of digestive cancers is poor mainly due to intraperitoneal relapse by cells which may have already been seeded at the time of surgery. Using immunocytology we investigated the peritoneal cavity and, as a comparison, the bone marrow of 147 patients with gastric, colorectal and pancreatic cancer for micrometastatic cells. Cytological samples from peritoneal cavity lavages and bone marrow aspirates were analyzed using monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) against tumor-associated antigens (TAA) (CEA, CA-19-9, 17-1-A, C-54-0, Ra96) and compared to a MAb staining cytokeratins (KL-I). Patients with benign diseases served as controls.
Intraperitoneal micrometastatic cells were detected in 27% of colorectal, 43% of gastric and 58% of pancreatic cancer patients. In the bone marrow, the corresponding data were 29% for colorectal, 25% for gastric and 58% for pancreatic cancer patients. Combined evaluation of both compartments increased the detection rate significantly (colorectal cancer: 40%, gastric cancer: 52%, pancreatic cancer: 72%). No unwarranted reactions were found in the control group. Combining 3 antibodies (CA-19-9, Ra96, C-54-0) enabled good detection for peritoneal cavity samples. In the bone marrow, the use of 2 antibodies (KL-I and CA-19-9) detected 94% of all positive samples, whereas KL-I and CA-19-9 stained approx. 70% of all positive samples in each case. The occurence of stained cells in the peritoneal cavity correlated with classical prognostic factors (TNM classification). © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.