Single-cells isolation and molecular analysis: Focus on her2-low ctcs in metastatic breast cancer

Paolo D’amico, Carolina Reduzzi, Wenan Qiang, Youbin Zhang, Lorenzo Gerratana, Qiang Zhang, Andrew A. Davis, Ami N. Shah, Maroua Manai, Giuseppe Curigliano, Massimo Cristofanilli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although the detection of CTCs expressing HER2 at low intensity (HER2-low CTCs) has been shown to have a negative prognostic value in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients, the biological intrinsic nature of HER2-low CTCs remains unexplored. Considering the technical challenges behind the selective collection of immunophenotype-specific CTCs, we developed a pipeline to individually capture HER2-low CTCs. Four different breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231, T47D, MDA-MB-453, and SKBR3), that are known to express HER2 at different immunohistochemistry levels (respectively classified as 0, 1+, 2+, and 3+), were spiked in healthy donor blood tubes (7.5 mL) and processed with the CellSearch® (Menarini Silicon Biosystems, Bologna, Italy) for enrichment and the DEPArray NxT for single cell selection. The HER2 signal-intensities of each cell line was compared using the nonparametric Mann–Whitney U test. The optimal cut-offs to distinguish HER2 1+ from 0 and 2+ cells were calculated performing the Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. Median HER2 signal-intensities detected with the DEPArray NxT were: 2.59 (0), 3.58 (1+), 5.23 (2+) and 38.37 (3+). DEPArray NxT efficiently differentiated each single cell line (p < 0.001). The area under the ROC curve was 0.69 and 0.70 (respectively 0 vs. 1+ and 1+ vs. 2+) and the optimal calculated cut-offs were 2.85 (lower) and 4.64 (upper). HER2-low CTCs can be detected and separately collected using predetermined intensity cut-offs. This study will allow standardized single-cell or pooled collection of HER2-low CTCs for downstream molecular analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number79
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Breast cancer
  • CTC
  • CellSearch
  • DEPArray
  • HER2
  • HER2-low
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Single-cell


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