Spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplasia (SPEM) associated with gastric cancer in Iceland

Dig Dis Sci. 2003 Mar;48(3):431-41. doi: 10.1023/a:1022564027468.


Recent studies have described a spasmolytic polypeptide-expressing metaplastic cell lineage (SPEM) in the gastric fundic mucosa associated with both chronic H. pylori infection and gastric adenocarcinoma. We investigated the association of SPEM both with early gastric adenocarcinoma and in biopsies taken from patients prior to diagnosis of cancer. Two cohorts were examined. First, gastric resections from 29 patients with early gastric cancer were examined. Second, biopsies taken from 18 patients prior to the diagnosis of gastric cancer were compared with their respective resection specimens as well as with control biopsies from a cohort of 19 patients diagnosed with gastritis without subsequent development of cancer. The presence of SPEM and intestinal metaplasia (IM) adjacent to and distant from the cancer was compared and spasmolytic polypeptide (SP) immunostaining within dysplastic/cancerous cells was identified. SPEM was present adjacent to cancer in all early cancer cases where the tumor was located in the body or at the body/antrum junction, and was present in the body mucosa distant from the cancer in 76% of cases. Intestinal metaplasia was found adjacent to the tumor in 76% of cases and in body sections in 52% of resections. SP immunostaining was noted within cancer cells in 62% of tumors, and within dysplastic cells in 76% of resections where dysplasia was present. SPEM was present in 82% of the biopsies obtained prior to the diagnosis of cancer, compared with only 37% in the gastritis cohort. IM was present in only 57% of biopsies. In conclusion, SPEM is strongly associated with early gastric cancers and is observed in gastric biopsies prior to the development of cancer. In addition, early gastric cancers demonstrated a high incidence of SP expression. These results suggest that SPEM merits consideration as an important pre-neoplastic gastric lesion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / ethnology
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gastric Mucosa / pathology
  • Helicobacter Infections / complications
  • Helicobacter Infections / pathology
  • Helicobacter pylori / isolation & purification
  • Helicobacter pylori / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • Middle Aged
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Precancerous Conditions / metabolism
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Peptides
  • spasmolytic polypeptide