This review suggests that immunocytochemistry in diagnostic pathology can be performed using relatively small panels of antibodies and that it should be reserved for situations in which, for one reason or another, the pathologist cannot exert his or her conventional diagnostic skills. Examples include the diagnosis of tumours the true nature of which is uncertain because of anaplasia or poor morphological preservation; the demonstration of small numbers of cells which are otherwise too rare to be recognised in conventionally stained preparations; and the immunophenotyping of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Recently progress has been made in the context of non-Hodgkin's lymphomas by the development of monoclonal antibodies that detect T and B cell associated markers in paraffin wax sections. Most of these reagents, however, recognise either lineage associated (but not lineage specific) variants of the leucocyte common antigen CD45, or antigens that are poorly characterised. A recent promising development has therefore been the demonstration that polyclonal antisera raised against the CD3/T3 T cell specific marker (purified by affinity chromatography) are suitable for staining T cells in paraffin sections. This approach will hopefully enable antibodies to be produced which react with other well defined white cell associated markers in routine biopsy material.
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