Currently available clinico-pathologic criteria provide an imperfect assessment of outcome for patients with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Identification of prognostic factors related to tumor biology might improve this assessment. We investigated the prognostic significance of the melanoma cell adhesion molecule (M-CAM) in EOC. Using the same antibody, M-CAM expression was tested by Western blotting in protein extracts and by immunohistochemestry in tissue microarrays generated from 133 consecutively resected, well characterized EOC samples. Fisher test, Kaplan-Meier method and Cox proportional hazards analysis were used to relate M-CAM expression to clinico-pathological variables and to time to progression (TTP) and overall survival (OS). In vitro biochemical analysis showed a progressively increased M-CAM expression from normal to malignant cells. M-CAM protein, detected immunohistochemically, was significantly associated with advanced tumor stage, serous and undifferentiated histotype, extent of residual disease and p53 accumulation. Presence or absence of M-CAM significantly divided patients according to their TTP (median, 22 vs. 79 months, respectively; log-rank p = 0.001) and OS (median, 42 vs. 131 months, respectively; log-rank p = 0.0003). In the subgroup of advanced stage patients who achieved complete response after front-line treatment, M-CAM expression and absence of residual disease were significantly associated with shorter TTP (p = 0.003, HR 5.25, 95% Cl 1.79-15.41 and p = 0.011, HR 3.77, 95% Cl 1.36-10.49 respectively) at the multivariate level. In the same sub-group of patients, M-CAM expression remained the only parameter significantly associated with OS (p = 0.005, HR 3.35, 95% Cl 1.42-6.88). M-CAM is a marker of early relapse and poorer outcome in EOC. In particular, M-CAM expression identifies a subgroup of front-line therapy-responding patients who undergo dramatic relapses, thus helping to better select patients who might benefit from new/alternative therapeutic modalities.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.