Objectives: The cyclin-dependent kinase p16 (also known as Ink4A, Mts1, Cdkn2, and Cdkn4i) has been proposed as a tumor suppressor gene mapped on chromosome segment 9p21. This study evaluated p16 protein expression in 135 lung cancer specimens and investigated potential genetic alterations occurring in this gene.
Results: We found altered p16 immunohistochemical expression to be a frequent event in lung cancer and to be independent of either the histologic type or any other clinical-pathologic feature. Western blot analyses performed on about one third of the specimens correlated highly with these results. In addition, we found p16 immunohistochemical expression to be a favorable prognostic factor in lung cancer in that its reduction or loss correlated with a worse outcome for the patients. Polymerase chain reaction amplification and direct sequencing of p16 exons 1 and 2 revealed no mutations, indicating that p16-altered expression in lung cancer is not necessarily linked to mutational events of these genes.
Conclusions: We conclude that p16-altered expression is both an independent and frequent event in lung cancer and may have an important role in tumorigenesis and in malignant progression of a significant proportion of these cancers. However, the actual incidence and relevance of p16 mutations in this neoplasm continues to be debated, and its analysis seems inconclusive. Our results suggest a prognostic role for the immunodetection of this protein on formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded specimens. They further suggest its routine use in the evaluation of the frequently unpredictable behavior of lung cancer.