Purpose: Beta-catenin is involved in homotypic cell-cell adhesion and the wnt signaling pathway. Deregulation of beta-catenin levels, caused in part by mutations of the adenomatous polyposis coli gene, is thought to play a role in the development of colorectal and other cancers. To further elucidate their roles, the expression pattern of beta-catenin and phosphospecific beta-catenin was correlated with clinical outcome in a series of patients with colorectal cancer.
Experimental design: Immunohistochemical analysis of a tissue microarray with 650 colorectal cancer specimens was performed to study the expression and subcellular localization of beta-catenin and phosphospecific beta-catenin. These results were correlated with other clinicopathological factors and with overall survival.
Results: The majority of cancers retained some degree of beta-catenin membranous staining, whereas cytoplasmic or nuclear expression was seen in 42.5% and 20.4% of specimens, respectively. Phospho-beta-catenin showed nuclear staining in 9.5% of specimens, and there was no apparent membranous or cytoplasmic staining. There was no significant association between beta-catenin or phospho-beta-catenin and grade or stage. However, there was a positive correlation between beta-catenin and phospho-beta-catenin (P = 0.039), with phospho-beta-catenin representing a subset of nuclear beta-catenin. Patients with nuclear expression of beta-catenin did not have an altered survival compared with those that did not (P = 0.5611). Nuclear expression of phospho-beta-catenin, however, was associated with an improved survival (P = 0.0006). In multivariate analysis, only stage and phospho-beta-catenin were independently predictive of overall survival (P < 0.001 and P = 0.0034, respectively).
Conclusions: These findings support a role for beta-catenin overexpression in colorectal tumorigenesis and provide initial evidence that phospho-beta-catenin may be a marker for improved overall survival independent of stage and grade.