Many studies have tried to discriminate malignant from benign phaeochromocytomas, but until now no widely accepted histological, immunohistochemical, or molecular methods have been available. In this study of 29 malignant and 85 benign phaeochromocytomas from 102 patients, immunohistochemistry was performed with antibodies to the tumour suppressor gene product p53 and the proto-oncogene products bcl-2 and c-erbB-2, using the avidin-biotin complex method. Malignant phaeochromocytomas showed a statistically significant higher frequency of p53 (p=0.042) and bcl-2 (p=0.037) protein expression than their benign counterparts. The combination of both markers showed an even higher significance (p=0.004), to which both markers contributed equally. Overexpression of c-erbB-2 was associated with the occurrence of familial phaeochromocytomas (p=0. 001), but no difference was found between benign and malignant cases. In conclusion, p53, bcl-2, and c-erbB-2 all appear to be involved in the pathogenesis of a proportion of phaeochromocytomas. Immunoreactivity to p53 and bcl-2 proteins may help to predict the clinical behaviour of phaeochromocytomas.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.