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Open Access Research article

Fluorescence in situ hybridization as adjunct to cytology improves the diagnosis and directs estimation of prognosis of malignant pleural effusions

Jingquan Han, Shouqiang Cao, Kai Zhang, Guibin Zhao, Yanzhong Xin, Qing Dong, Yubo Yan and Jian Cui*

Author Affiliations

Department of Thoracic Surgery, The Fourth Affiliated Hospital, Harbin Medical University, No.37, Yi yuan Street, Nan gang District, Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, 150001, China

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Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery 2012, 7:121  doi:10.1186/1749-8090-7-121

Published: 13 November 2012

Abstract

Background

The identification of malignant cells in effusions by conventional cytology is hampered by its limited sensitivity and specificity. The aim of this study was to investigate the value of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) as adjuncts to conventional cytologic examination in patients with malignant pleural effusions.

Methods

We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 93 inpatients with pleural effusions (72 malignant pleural effusions metastatic from 11 different organs and 21 benign) over 23 months. All the patients came from Chinese northeast areas. Aspirated pleural fluid underwent cytologic examination and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) for aneuploidy. We used FISH in single-colour or if appropriate in dual-colour evaluation to detect chromosomal aberrations (chromosomes 7, 11, and 17) in effusion cells as markers of malignancy, to raise the diagnostic yield and identified the efficiency by diagnostic biopsy. Predominant cytogenetic anomalies and patterns of intratumor cytogenetic heterogeneity were brought in relation to overall survival rate.

Results

Cytology alone confirmed malignant pleural effusions in 45 of 72 patients (sensitivity 63%), whereas FISH alone positively identified 48 of 72 patients (sensitivity 67%). Both tests had high specificity in predicting benign effusions. If cytology and FISH were considered together, they exhibited 88% sensitivity and 94.5% specificity in discriminating benign and malignant effusions. Combined, the two assays were more sensitive than either test alone. Although the positive predictive value of each test was 94.5%, the negative predictive value of cytology and FISH combined was 78%, better than 47% and 44% for FISH and cytology alone, respectively. There was a significantly prolonged survival rate for patients with aneuploidy for chromosome 17.

Conclusions

FISH in combination with conventional cytology is a highly sensitive and specific diagnostic tool for detecting malignant cells in pleural effusions . The high sensitivity and specificity may be associated with geographic area and race. Simple numeric FISH anomalies may be prognostic.

Keywords:
Malignant pleural effusions; FISH; Prognosis; Sensitivity; Specificity