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The presence of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-positive cells has previously been demonstrated in the peripheral blood of prostate cancer patients by flow cytometry (FC), but the identity of these cells has not been established. In this study, the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was compared with analytical FC in an attempt to detect and characterise these cells. Peripheral blood was obtained from 12 patients with newly diagnosed and untreated prostate cancer and five controls. Nine of the 12 patients with prostate cancer (75%) had circulating PSA-positive cells as shown by FC. Only one of those patients (11.1%) was found to express PSA mRNA by RT-PCR. The absence of PSA mRNA in the majority of samples showing PSA-positive cells suggests that they do not represent haematogenous micrometastases. PSA-positive cells in the blood could represent monocytes that express PSA, either following binding/phagocytosis of free serum PSA or phagocytosis of tumour cells.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Cancer

Publication Date





400 - 405