Liver metastasis is one of the poor prognostic factors for gastric cancer. Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and its receptor, c-Met, have been reported to be related to the proliferation of carcinoma cells. We examined c-Met and HGF expression in stage IV gastric cancers (n = 121) and compared the results in groups with liver metastasis (n = 47, LM group) and without liver metastasis (n = 74, no-LM group). The survival rate for the LM group was significantly poorer than for the no-LM group (p < 0.01). We found a high frequency of c-Met expression in the LM group compared with the no-LM group at protein level detected by immunohistochemistry (p = 0.0005) and at mRNA level detected by semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (p = 0.0386) in primary gastric tumors. Furthermore, we evaluated HGF expression in both carcinoma cells and stromal cells in gastric cancers. There was no significant difference in the HGF expression between the LM and no-LM groups. The labeling index of proliferating cell nuclear antigen for the carcinomas in the LM group was higher than that in the no-LM group (47.1 +/- 24.5 vs. 26.2 +/- 24.5%, p < 0.0001). Thus, the high frequency of c-Met overexpression in carcinoma cells may be involved in the mechanism of liver metastasis in gastric cancers. Moreover, the evaluation of c-Met expression might be a useful indicator of liver metastasis in patients with gastric cancer.
Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel