The evaluation of minimal residual disease in patients and hematopoietic cell grafts is of considerable importance for staging disease, determining the response to treatment, and monitoring the efficiency of ex vivo purging or positive selection procedures. The most widely used techniques are immunocytochemical staining and the polymerase chain reaction; however, these assays do not measure the viability or clonogenic capacity of the detected cells. For this purpose, a culture technique must be used. This paper reviews the status, advantages, and limitations of this approach and the detection of tumor cells in bone marrow and peripheral blood.
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