The ability to detect and monitor the course of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder using DNA histograms obtained from flow cytometry was studied. Voided urine and barbotage specimens were collected from patients with active TCC or a past history of TCC. These specimens were submitted to routine cytologic and flow cytometric analyses. Samples were considered to be positive if they met one or more of three criteria: (1) if they had aneuploid or tetraploid peaks, (2) if the DNA index of the major GI peak was shifted more than 10 per cent from that of diploid cells, or (3) if 15 per cent or more of the cells fell to the right of the major diploid G1 cell population thereby constituting a significant hyperdiploid cell population. Using these methods for patients with active disease, the detection rate was 91 per cent. In patients with a past history of TCC, positive histograms preceded the appearance of visible tumor in one third of the cases. Flow cytometry proved to be an excellent way of following patients with a past history of TCC or of screening patients suspected of having active disease. Following this protocol, few biologically active tumors go undetected. However, in 112 patients without a history of bladder cancer, the false positive or suspicious rate was 38 per cent. Before flow cytometry can be recommended as a widespread screening method for patients thought to be at risk of TCC of the bladder developing, this suspicious group will have to be eliminated.
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