Immunohistochemistry Staining in Cancer Research: The Significance of Non-Tissue Controls for Reliable Results

Cancer research has experienced significant advancements thanks to progress in immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining techniques, offering crucial insights into the complex realm of cancer biology. Amidst these innovative strides, the importance of non-tissue controls in IHC experiments cannot be emphasized enough. These non-tissue slides, provided by PRS, guarantee precise and reproducible results while adhering to the standards outlined in ISO 15189. This article delves into the fundamental importance of these non-tissue controls in cancer research, elucidating how they play a vital role in ensuring the precision and dependability of IHC outcomes.

Understanding Non-Tissue Controls

Non-tissue controls serve as standardized benchmarks in immunohistochemistry experiments, functioning as both positive and negative controls. Positive controls contain the specific antigen or protein of interest that the immunohistochemistry assay aims to detect, while negative non-tissue controls lack this specific antigen. These non-tissue control samples are standardized, eliminating biases and errors commonly encountered when using tissue controls in immunohistochemistry assays. They provide researchers with a vital reference, enabling them to evaluate the staining process’s specificity. By employing non-tissue controls, researchers can effectively identify and eliminate background noise, ensuring that any observed staining in the actual tissue samples accurately indicates the presence of the target protein.

Preventing Inaccurate Results

Immunohistochemistry staining presents a challenge in preventing false positives, which can occur due to nonspecific binding or experimental errors. Non-tissue controls play a crucial role in averting such inaccuracies. By incorporating these controls into the experimental process, researchers can differentiate between genuine positive signals in cancerous tissues and misleading staining, ensuring accurate interpretation of results. The utilization of a PRS non-tissue control provides an added layer of assurance against false positives during immunohistochemistry staining, unless a staining process error occurs. Even in such instances, the PRS tool’s indicator would signal the error, preventing misinterpretation. An example illustrated in the diagram below depicts a scenario where excessive antigen retrieval temperature damaged primary targets before secondary targets, causing only secondary targets to be stained. In contrast, the tissue sample showed a positive result, highlighting the necessity of vigilant control utilization to maintain result accuracy.

Tissue Behaviour                                      PRS Target Result


Additionally, there are instances where the PRS non-tissue control indicator tool displays a falsely elevated positive result following immunohistochemistry staining, depicted below. This occurs due to an excessively aggressive antigen retrieval process or excessive air knife pressure, which can damage the PRS targets. In contrast, the tissue sample result will exhibit an exaggerated positive outcome. If the pathologist or researcher does not utilize the PRS non-tissue control indicator tool, there is a risk of inaccurately recording a higher cancer stage than the actuality.

Tissue Behaviour                                      PRS Target Result


Ensuring Specificity and Reliability

The specificity of immunohistochemistry staining is paramount in cancer research. Researchers often target specific proteins or biomarkers associated with particular cancer types. Non-tissue controls play a pivotal role in verifying the accuracy of these targets. When the staining is limited to the actual tissue samples and does not appear in non-tissue controls, researchers can confidently conclude the specificity of the antibody-antigen interaction. This assurance is fundamental for the reliability and credibility of the research findings.

Standardizing Protocols and Enhancing Reproducibility

In the realm of scientific research, standardization is key to ensuring the reproducibility of results across different laboratories and studies. Non-tissue controls provide a standardized reference point, enabling researchers to validate their staining protocols. By consistently incorporating these controls, scientists can enhance the reproducibility of their experiments, fostering a cohesive and reliable body of knowledge in cancer research.

About PRS

Process Record Slides (PRS) is a groundbreaking quality control measure for immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining. It ensures precise and consistent results while adhering to ISO 15189 standards. It comprises primary and secondary protein targets with certified antigen expression levels, recognized as an ISO 13485 medical device. PRS stands out by providing a standardized reference material with known properties, ensuring that each IHC staining process is evaluated for accuracy and reproducibility. This eliminates the reliance on the consistency of previous batches, guaranteeing a higher level of quality control in IHC experiments.

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