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An Analytical Method for the Quantification of hERG1 Channel Gene Expression in Human Colorectal Cancer

Fortunato, Angelo PhD*,†; Gasparoli, Luca BA*,†; Falsini, Sara BA*,†; Luca, Boni MD†,‡; Arcangeli, Annarosa MD, PhD*,†

doi: 10.1097/PDM.0b013e31828e55c7
Original Articles

Cancer molecular investigation revealed a huge molecular heterogeneity between different types of cancers as well as among cancer patients affected by the same cancer type. This implies the necessity of a personalized approach for cancer diagnosis and therapy, on the basis of the development of standardized protocols to facilitate the application of molecular techniques in the clinical decision-making process. Ion channels encoding genes are acquiring increasing relevance in oncological translational studies, representing new candidates for molecular diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Hence, the development of molecular protocols for the quantification of ion channels encoding genes in tumor specimens may have relevance for diagnostic and prognostic investigation. Two main hindrances must be overcome for these purposes: the use of formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded samples for gene expression analysis and the physiological expression of ion channels in excitable cells, potentially present in the tumor sample. We here propose a method for hERG1 gene quantification in colorectal cancer samples in both cryopreserved and formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded samples. An analytical method was developed to estimate hERG1 gene expression exclusively in epithelial cancer cells. Indeed, we found that the hERG1 gene was expressed at significant levels by myofibroblasts present in the tumor stroma. This method was based on the normalization on a smooth muscle-myofibroblast-specific gene, MYH11, with no need of microdissection. By applying this method, hERG1 expression turned out to correlate with VEGF-A expression, confirming previous immunohistochemical data.

*Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Viale GB Morgagni

Istituto Toscano Tumori, Firenze

Clinical Trials Coordinating Center, Istituto Toscano Tumori/Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Careggi, Firenze, Italy

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Supported by the Association for International Cancer Research (Grant No. 06-0491), Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (Grant No. 1662) and Istituto Toscano Tumori (DD Regione Toscana No. 6888).

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Annarosa Arcangeli, MD, PhD, Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Univerity of Florence, Viale G.B. Morgagni, 50, Firenze 50134, Italy (e-mail:

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.