Bcl-2 protein and prognosis in patients with potentially curable non-small-cell lung cancer
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The bcl-2 proto-oncogene functions as a cell death suppressor, and its expression prolongs cell survival by blocking apoptosis. Data available on the clinical relevance of bcl-2 protein expression in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are controversial. We analysed the role of bcl-2 protein expression on 6-year relapse-free survival in 229 patients with stage I-IIIa NSCLC (101 squamous cell carcinomas and 128 adenocarcinomas) subjected to surgery, with curative intent. Immunohistochemical analysis was performed on archival material by using a monoclonal antibody anti-bcl-2 (clone 124). Bcl-2 protein expression, which was detected in 22% of the cases, was significantly related to stage, histology and grading, and was an indicator of clinical outcome. The probability of relapse-free survival at 6 years was longer for patients with bcl-2-positive tumours (74%) than for those with bcl-2-negative tumours (57%) (P=0.02). This finding was mainly evident for the subgroups of patients with stage IIIa tumours (P=0.05), squamous cell carcinoma (P=0.03) or moderately/poorly differentiated tumours (P=0.02). However, multivariate analysis by Weibull’s regression model indicated that bcl-2 protein expression was not an independent prognostic risk factor in patients with curable NSCLC when the information provided by stage was available.
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