New anticancer drugs targeting DNA topoisomerase I (topo I) are showing activity against human sarcomas. Laboratory studies have indicated that cells responsive to topo I-targeted drugs have elevated levels of topo I, require active DNA replication, and may require a functional apoptotic pathway. In this study, we evaluated these potential markers of topo I-targeted drug sensitivity in 55 cases of human sarcoma (42 high grade, 4 intermediate grade, and 9 low grade). By immunohistochemical staining, we observed elevated topo I expression in 20 of 55 neoplasms (36%). Immunohistochemical staining for the proliferation marker DNA topoisomerase II-alpha (topo II-alpha), showed that 15 of 55 neoplasms (27%) had topo II-alpha indices >50, indicating a large number of actively cycling tumor cells. Abnormal p53 expression was observed in 19 of the 55 cases (35%). None of the cases were interpreted as positive for ALK-1. To complement our immunohistochemical staining of topo I, we isolated functionally active topo I from extracts of a human sarcoma. These isolates demonstrated that sarcoma topo I is sensitive to topo I-targeted anticancer drugs. Of the 55 cases of human sarcoma, 7 (13%) had high levels of topo I, a large number of cycling tumor cells, and normal p53 expression. These are the molecular parameters that might suggest responsiveness to drugs targeting topo I.
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