AIMS: Chromosomal aberrations in tumour cells are often not discernable by direct analysis. Although cell culture allows qualitative analysis of the karyotype, potential selection and evolution during growth in vitro may yield misleading data. To determine whether aberrations observed in vitro are representative of the original lesion, chromosomal aberrations found after prolonged growth in vitro of two squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (SSCHN) were evaluated with fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) on the original tumour nuclei. METHODS: Specific karyotypic aberrations identified in cultures of two squamous cell carcinomas were targets for FISH analysis on tumour sections. Chromosome painting mixtures were selected based on in vitro karyotypic data. FISH was performed on cultured interphase and metaphase cells, and on histological sections from the original tumours. RESULTS: The 9cen and 17cen probes yielded FISH signals consistent with the aneusomies predicted for the respective chromosomes from the culture karyotypes. Whole chromosome 9 paint confirmed the prior existence in the tumours of i(9p) and i(9q), although only the latter hybridised with the 9cen probe. FISH data also supported in vivo representation of the diploid and tetraploid tumour subclones observed in cultures. In tumour HFH-SCC-8a, FISH results were generally concordant between cultured interphase and metaphase cells and the histological sections, and improved the interpretation of marker chromosomes identified in culture. CONCLUSION: The karyotypes obtained in these cases after prolonged passage in culture were consistent with the genetic alterations in the original tumours.
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