Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Clinical Pathology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Preservation of biomolecules in breast cancer tissue by a formalin-free histology system

Mehdi Nassiri1*, Sharon Ramos1, Hajir Zohourian1, Vladimir Vincek2, Azorides R Morales1 and Mehrdad Nadji1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Pathology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA

2 Department of Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Clinical Pathology 2008, 8:1  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-8-1

Published: 29 January 2008

Abstract

Background

The potential problems associated with the use of formalin in histology, such as health hazards, degradation of RNA and cross-linking of proteins are well recognized. We describe the utilization of a formalin-free fixation and processing system for tissue detection of two important biopredictors in breast cancer – estrogen receptor and HER2 – at the RNA and protein levels.

Methods

Parallel sections of 62 cases of breast cancer were fixed in an alcohol-based molecular fixative and in formalin. Molecular fixative samples were processed by a novel formalin-free microwave-assisted processing system that preserves DNA, RNA and proteins. Formalin-fixed samples were processed using the conventional method. Estrogen receptor was assessed by immunohistochemistry and real-time PCR. HER2 was assessed by immunohistochemistry, FISH, CISH and real-time PCR.

Results

The immunohistochemical reaction for estrogen receptor was similar in molecular- and formalin-fixed samples (Spearman Rank R = 0.83, p < 0.05). Also HER2 result was similar to that of formalin-fixed counterparts after elimination of antigen retrieval step (Spearman Rank R = 0.84, p < 0.05). The result of HER2 amplification by FISH and CISH was identical in the molecular fixative and formalin-fixed samples; although a shorter digestion step was required when using the former fixative. Real-time PCR for both estrogen receptor and HER2 were successful in all of the molecular fixative specimens.

Conclusion

The formalin-free tissue fixation and processing system is a practical platform for evaluation of biomolecular markers in breast cancer and it allows reliable DNA and RNA and protein studies.