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Cellular Oncology
Volume 30 (2008), Issue 4, Pages 291-297

Molecular Detection of Neuron-Specific ELAV-Like-Positive Cells in the Peripheral Blood of Patients with Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Vito D’Alessandro,1 Lucia Anna Muscarella,1,2 Massimiliano Copetti,3 Leopoldo Zelante,2 Massimo Carella,2 and Gianluigi Vendemiale1,4

1Internal Medicine Department, IRCCS “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” Hospital, San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy
2Evolutive Age Department, Medical Genetics Service, IRCCS “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza” Hospital, San Giovanni Rotondo (FG), Italy
3Institute of Quantitative Methods, “L. Bocconi” University, Milano, Italy
4Department of Medical Sciences, Institute of Geriatrics, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: n-ELAV (neuronal-Embryonic Lethal, Abnormal Vision)-like genes belong to a family codifying for onconeural RNA-binding proteins. Anti-Hu-antibodies (anti-Hu-Ab) are typically associated with paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis/sensory neuropathy (PEM/PSN), and low titres of anti-Hu-Ab, were found in newly diagnosed Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC). The aim of this study is to develop a sensitive and quantitative molecular real-time PCR assay to detect SCLC cells in peripheral blood (PB) through nELAV-like transcripts quantification.

Methods: Peripheral blood samples from 25 SCLC untreated patients and 12 healthy blood donors were investigated by realtime PCR. mRNA levels for HuB (ELAV2), HuC (ELAV3) and HuD (ELAV4) were measured in peripheral blood samples with an absolute quantification method using plasmid dilutions as calibration curves.

Results: A statistically significant increase in mRNA expression level was detected for HuB and HuD in SCLC patients as compared with samples from healthy blood donors. After establishing cut off values based on the level of expression in control samples, 28% of the SCLC samples were positive for HuD expression. Overall 60% of the SCLC displayed increased level of HuD or HuB transcripts.

Conclusion: Our preliminary results suggest that neuron-ELAV mRNA are detectable in peripheral blood of SCLC patients using real-time quantitative PCR.