Validation of CyTOF against flow cytometry for immunological studies and monitoring of human cancer clinical trials

Ramy Gadalla, Babak Noamani, Bethany L. MacLeod, Russell J. Dickson, Mengdi Guo, Wenxi Xu, Sabelo Lukhele, Heidi J. Elsaesser, Albiruni R.Abdul Razak, Naoto Hirano, Tracy L. McGaha, Ben Wang, Marcus Butler, Cynthia J. Guidos, Pam S. Ohashi, Lillian L. Siu, David G. Brooks*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Flow cytometry is a widely applied approach for exploratory immune profiling and biomarker discovery in cancer and other diseases. However, flow cytometry is limited by the number of parameters that can be simultaneously analyzed, severely restricting its utility. Recently, the advent of mass cytometry (CyTOF) has enabled high dimensional and unbiased examination of the immune system, allowing simultaneous interrogation of a large number of parameters. This is important for deep interrogation of immune responses and particularly when sample sizes are limited (such as in tumors). Our goal was to compare the accuracy and reproducibility of CyTOF against flow cytometry as a reliable analytic tool for human PBMC and tumor tissues for cancer clinical trials. We developed a 40+ parameter CyTOF panel and demonstrate that compared to flow cytometry, CyTOF yields analogous quantification of cell lineages in conjunction with markers of cell differentiation, function, activation, and exhaustion for use with fresh and viably frozen PBMC or tumor tissues. Further, we provide a protocol that enables reliable quantification by CyTOF down to low numbers of input human cells, an approach that is particularly important when cell numbers are limiting. Thus, we validate CyTOF as an accurate approach to perform high dimensional analysis in human tumor tissue and to utilize low cell numbers for subsequent immunologic studies and cancer clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number415
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • CyTOF
  • cancer clinical trials
  • flow cytometry
  • immune studies
  • immunotherapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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