Measurement of chemoresistance markers in patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer: a novel approach for patient selection

Ann Thorac Surg. 2003 Jul;76(1):187-93; discussion 193. doi: 10.1016/s0003-4975(03)00131-0.


Background: The long-term survival of patients with stage III non-small cell lung cancer treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is 10% to 20%. Survival could potentially be increased and toxicity limited if one could identify patients most likely to respond to a particular treatment regimen. This project prospectively evaluated a panel of potential immunohistochemical markers of chemoresistance in a population of patients with pathology-confirmed stage III non-small cell lung cancer in order to determine the prognostic value of each marker in relation to response to chemotherapy or survival.

Methods: Immunohistochemical staining was performed on histologically positive mediastinal nodal specimens obtained from 59 patients (mean age, 62 years; range, 41 to 79 years) without evidence of distant metastatic disease treated with navelbine-based chemotherapy and external beam radiation therapy between 1996 and 2001. Included were markers for apoptosis (p53, bcl-2), drug efflux/degradation (MDR, GST-pi), growth factors (EGFr, Her2-neu), and mismatch repair (hMLH1, hMSH2). After chemotherapy, patients underwent radiologic evaluation for response measured by standard criteria.

Results: After a median 41 months of follow-up (range, 17 to 55 months), 43 patients had recurrent disease and 38 of these patients were dead of cancer (median cancer-free survival of 10 months and overall survival of 18 months). Patients who demonstrated a complete or partial response (n = 38) had a significantly improved survival (p = 0.002) compared with those with stable or progressive cancer (n = 21). Multivariable Cox step-wise regression analysis of marker expression associated overexpression of p53 and low expression of hMSH2 with poor treatment response and cancer death.

Conclusions: These preliminary data suggest that marker expression may allow the separation of patients into low- and high-risk groups with respect to survival after combined navelbine-based chemotherapy and XRT. This could represent a novel method of selecting patients for a particular treatment regimen if these data are reproduced in a larger prospective trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / radiotherapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Patient Selection
  • Probability
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers, Tumor