Objective: Currently available clinical and molecular factors provide still an insufficient prognostic and predictive assessment for patients with epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). To identify a potential molecular target and prognostic/predictive factor for EOC, we investigated in a retrospective study the prognostic value of Ep-CAM overexpression in EOC.
Methods: We assessed by immunohistochemistry the expression of the Ep-CAM antigen on tissue microarrays containing paraffin-embedded tissue samples of 199 patients with documented EOC. Patients were operated for ovarian cancer in the period between June 1980 and January 2000.
Results: We observed a rate of Ep-CAM overexpression of 68.8%. Ep-CAM overexpression was significantly related to a decreased overall survival (P = 0.036). The prognostic power of Ep-CAM overexpression was particularly strong in patients with stage III and IV disease. In fact, in this subgroup, median overall survival was twofold higher in patients without as compared to patients with Ep-CAM overexpression (46 vs. 23 months, P < 0.01). Univariate analysis revealed a correlation with histologic grade. We observed a significantly higher rate of Ep-CAM overexpression (83.5%) in grade 3 tumors. Histologic subtypes associated with a higher rate of Ep-CAM overexpression were serous carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, undifferentiated carcinoma, clear cell carcinoma, and endometrioid carcinoma. Cox regression analysis showed Ep-CAM overexpression to be an independent prognostic marker (P = 0.037, RR = 1.64).
Conclusions: This retrospective analysis demonstrates for the first time an independent prognostic value of Ep-CAM overexpression in patients with EOC. Ovarian cancer patients with Ep-CAM overexpressing tumors are frequent and would qualify for treatment with Ep-CAM-specific immunotherapeutic approaches.