Objectives: Caspase-3 is one of the most important molecules in the apoptosis cascade, and the relationship between caspase-3 expression and prognosis has been reported in many types of malignancies. However, the involvement of caspase-3 in human gastric carcinoma is not fully understood. We evaluated caspase-3 expression in human gastric carcinoma to clarify the clinicopathological importance and investigated the apoptosis avoidance mechanism by an immunohistological method.
Methods: Specimens from 151 patients who underwent gastrectomy at the Department of Surgery and Surgical Basic Science of Kyoto University Hospital were investigated. Caspase-3 expression in cancer cells was evaluated by comparing its expression in the germinal center of the lymphoid follicle, and was quantified as the caspase-3 expression index (C3EI). C3EI was compared with the expression of Bcl-2 and the TdT-mediated dUTP biotin nick-end labeling (TUNEL) in 80 randomly selected cases. Actual activation of caspase-3 was determined by immunohistochemistry using monoclonal antibody that recognizes only activated caspase-3.
Results: C3EI correlated significantly with lymph node metastasis (negative 105.5-78.7, positive 153.8 +/- 66.1 p = 0.001) and the lower C3EI group had a better prognosis than the higher group (log-rank test, p = 0.0001). Cox multivariate analysis showed that age, operation curability, tumor invasion and C3EI were significant independent determinants of overall survival. Bcl-2 and TUNEL staining had no significant correlations with C3EI. Immunohistochemistry of activated caspase-3 revealed that most caspase-3 in gastric cancer cells was not activated, in accordance with TUNEL assay.
Conclusions: Our results show that C3EI is a novel, independent prognostic factor in gastric cancer patients and cancer cells may avoid apoptosis by inhibiting caspase-3 activation.
Copyright 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel