Objective: Recent epidemiological studies indicate that there is reduced risk of all digestive carcinomas in patients who regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin. Cyclooxygenase (COX) is a target enzyme for NSAIDs. We investigated the role of two isoforms, COX-1 and COX-2, in the development and metastasis of gastric carcinoma.
Methods: Fifteen gastric carcinoma tissue specimens and accompanying adjacent mucosa specimens were obtained from surgical resections. COX-1 and COX-2 protein expression were evaluated using Western blotting analysis, and their relative band densities were semi quantified using standard densitometry scanning techniques.
Results: Compared with paired noncancerous specimens, COX-2 was overexpressed in 10 of 15 carcinoma tissue specimens (66.7%). Overall, COX-2 levels in carcinoma tissue were significantly higher. Two early carcinomas (confined to the mucosa and submucosa) and three of 13 advanced carcinomas (extended below the submucosa into the muscular wall) had weak or similar COX-2 expression in paired tissue specimens. COX-2 overexpression in tumors significantly correlated with tumor invasion into the lymphatic vessels in the gastric wall and metastasis to the lymph nodes. Furthermore, the stage grouping in the TNM classification significantly correlated with COX-2 overexpression. In contrast, COX-2 overexpression did not correlate with histopathological grading, surface size, and venous vessel invasion of the tumors. COX-1 levels were similar between paired tissues.
Conclusion: COX-2 overexpression might enhance lymphatic invasion and metastasis in patients with gastric carcinoma, implicating a poor prognosis. Therefore, the use of COX-2-specific inhibitor to suppress lymphatic metastasis in humans should be investigated.