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Evaluation of a multi-marker immunomagnetic enrichment assay for the quantification of circulating melanoma cells

James B Freeman1, Elin S Gray1, Michael Millward2, Robert Pearce1 and Melanie Ziman134*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medical Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, WA, Australia

2 Department of Medicine, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

3 School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia

4 Director ECU Melanoma Research Foundation, Edith Cowan University (ECU), 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Perth, 6027, WA, Australia

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:192  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-192

Published: 15 September 2012



Circulating melanoma cells (CMCs) are thought to be valuable in improving measures of prognosis in melanoma patients and may be a useful marker of residual disease to identify non-metastatic patients requiring adjuvant therapy. We investigated whether immunomagnetic enrichment targeting multiple markers allows more efficient enrichment of CMCs from patient peripheral blood than targeting a single marker. Furthermore, we aimed to determine whether the number of CMCs in patient blood was associated with disease stage.


We captured CMCs by targeting the melanoma associated markers MCSP and MCAM as well as the melanoma stem cell markers ABCB5 and CD271, both individually and in combination, by immunomagnetic enrichment. CMCs were enriched and quantified from the peripheral blood of 10 non-metastatic and 13 metastatic melanoma patients.


Targeting all markers in combination resulted in the enrichment of more CMCs than when any individual marker was targeted (pā€‰<ā€‰0.001-0.028). Furthermore, when a combination of markers was targeted, a greater number of CMCs were enriched in metastatic patients compared with non-metastatic patients (pā€‰=ā€‰0.007).


Our results demonstrated that a combination of markers should be targeted for optimal isolation of CMCs. In addition, there are significantly more CMCs in metastatic patients compared with non-metastatic patients and therefore quantification of CMCs may prove to be a useful marker of disease progression.

Circulating tumour cells; Melanoma; Immunomagnetic enrichment; Multi-marker