Purpose: To determine the differential expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in patients with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and adenocarcinoma (ADC) of the uterine cervix and the prognostic significance of COX-2 expression in these histologic types.
Methods and materials: A total of 105 International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Stage IIB uterine cervical cancer patients were screened for COX-2 expression immunohistochemically. COX-2 expression was determined in invasive cervical SCC (n = 84) and invasive cervical ADC (n = 21). To determine the clinical significance of COX-2 expression by histologic type, the patients were arbitrarily divided into four groups: SCC/COX-2 negative (n = 64); SCC/COX-2 positive (n = 20); ADC/COX-2 negative (n = 9); and ADC/COX-2 positive (n = 12). The clinical response to treatment, patterns of treatment failure, and survival data by COX-2 expression were compared for these two major histologic types. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify the prognostic factors influencing survival.
Results: Immunohistochemical examination showed that COX-2 expression was more frequently observed in ADC than in SCC (57% vs. 24%, p = 0.007). Moreover, COX-2 expression was an important predictor of treatment response, irrespective of the histologic type. All COX-2-negative patients achieved complete remission after initial treatment; 17% of SCC patients and 33% of ADC patients with COX-2 expression did not have complete remission after the initial treatment. The incidence of local failure for those with COX-2 expression was significantly greater than for COX-2-negative patients, regardless of histologic type. With a minimal follow-up of 60 months, the overall 5-year actuarial survival rate for SCC and ADC patients was 79% and 62%, respectively (p = 0.05). The 5-year disease-free survival rate for SCC and ADC patients was 73% and 56%, respectively (p = 0.13). Irrespective of the pathologic type, COX-2-positive patients had an unfavorable prognosis. The overall 5-year actuarial survival rate was 57% for COX-2-positive patients and 83% for COX-2-negative patients (p = 0.001). When patients were stratified into the four groups according to histologic type and COX-2 expression status, ADC/COX-2-positive patients had the worst prognosis, with an overall 5-year actuarial survival rate of 49% compared with 78% for ADC/COX-2-negative patients, 62% for SCC/COX-2-positive, and 84% for SCC/COX-2-negative patients (p = 0.007, log-rank test). Irrespective of histologic type, COX-2 expression was an independent prognostic factor by univariate and multivariate analyses.
Conclusion: In uterine cervical cancer, COX-2 was expressed in a greater proportion of ADC patients than SCC patients. COX-2 expression was also identified as a major determiner of a poor response to treatment and of an unfavorable prognosis, irrespective of the histologic type, reflecting the importance of the COX-2 protein in the acquisition of biologic aggressiveness and more malignant phenotype or increased resistance to the standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy in both histologic types. Given these observations, we believe that that ADC/COX-2-positive patients might be appropriate candidates for future trials of selective COX-2 inhibitor adjunctive therapy.