Cellular and molecular pathology of gastric carcinoma and precursor lesions: A critical review

Gastric Cancer. 1998 Dec;1(1):31-50. doi: 10.1007/s101200050053.


The cellular and molecular pathology of gastric cancer and its precursors are reviewed and discussed. Gastric carcinogenesis is a multistep phenomenon, beginning with precancerous conditions. Among these, adenoma is a direct precursor, because of the dysplastic nature of its cells. However, gastric adenoma is relatively rare. Chronic atrophic gastritis (CAG) is the most common precancerous condition, in which intestinal metaplasia often occurs. Carcinoma develops in CAG through stages of hyperplasia and dysplasia involving both metaplastic and non-metaplastic glands. Molecular alterations, including replication error and p53 and APC gene mutation and aneuploidy have been found in some of these conditions, confirming their role in carcinogenesis. Carcinomas of the stomach are heterogeneous in cellular composition. Both intestinal and gastric types of cells are found in all types of tumors, indicating the unique characteristics of gastric cancer. Many molecular lesions have been found in gastric carcinomas. Basic changes involve replication errors, telomerase activity, and aberrant CD44 transcripts. Many other changes often show differences in the frequency of their occurrence between the two major histological types of gastric carcinoma: well differentiated versus poorly differentiated, or intestinal type versus diffuse type. The timing and frequency of these changes in the stomach differ from the timing and frequency in colonic carcinogeneis. Pathological evaluation remains reliable and meaningful, in basic research as well as clinical management. To obtain correlation with molecular alterations, the need for detailed pathologic classification of gastric carcinoma is recognized, taking into account its biologic behavior and grades of cell differentiation.The cellular and molecular pathology of gastric cancer and its precursors are reviewed and discussed. Gastric carcinomas are unique in their heterogeneity in both cellular composition and molecular changes.