College of Veterinary Medicine

Cancer in Animals

Use of Flow Cytometry in Clinical Diagnosis of Malignancies and Disorders of the Immune System 


Flow cytometry (FC) has proven to be a useful addition to the methods available for the diagnosis of malignancies and disorders of the immune system in human medicine. The ability to assess multiple parameters simultaneously sets FC apart from other diagnostic technologies. Combined with the use of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) it is been possible to characterize complex populations of cells based on differences in cell size, light scattering characteristics and differences in the expression of one or more membrane molecules on cell subsets. This precision of phenotyping cells has facilitated distinction between neoplastic and benign conditions, diagnosis and classification of lymphomas and leukemias, the assessment of other neoplastic and pre-neoplastic disorders such as plasma cell dyscrasias and myeloblastic syndromes and the detection of minimal residual disease in patients with acute leukemia or chronic lymphoid leukemia. The high degree of accuracy and sensitivity has helped minimize the inherent uncertainties of diagnosis by microscopy.


The development of equivalent mAbs for use in food and companion animals now affords an opportunity to extend the technology to veterinary medicine. One of the goals of the NACCA is to develop a diagnostic service to aid clinicians in the diagnosis of malignancies and the determination of what therapeutic strategies should be employed to control the malignancy. A fully operational flow cytometry facility has been developed in the College of Veterinary Medicine for use in research and clinical medicine. Sets of mAbs have been developed for use with cats, dogs, horses, lamas, cattle, goats, sheep, and other species such as rabbits. Additional mAbs have been made by other investigators and are available commercially or through direct contact with the originator of the mAbs.

Service fees and donations will be used to develop and maintain the clinical service. The program will afford an opportunity for training residents and students in the use of FC to distinguish various types of malignancies and determine the effect of chemotherapy on function of the immune system.

Written by Dr William Davis, Washington State University.

Last Edited: Jan 27, 2009 9:21 AM   

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