Background: The potential prognostic value of several commonly investigated immunohistochemical markers in resected pancreatic cancer is variably reported. The objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review of literature evaluating p53, p16, smad4, bcl-2, bax, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression as prognostic factors in resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma and to conduct a subsequent meta-analysis to quantify the overall prognostic effect.
Methods: Relevant literature was identified using Medline, EMBASE and ISI Web of Science. The primary end point was overall survival assessed on univariate analysis. Only studies analysing resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma were eligible for inclusion and the summary log(e) hazard ratio (logHR) and variance were pooled using an inverse variance approach. Evidence of heterogeneity was evaluated using the χ(2) test for heterogeneity and its impact on the meta-analysis was assessed by the I(2) statisic. Hazard ratios greater than one reflect adverse survival associated with positive immunostaining.
Results: Vascular endothelial growth factor emerged as the most potentially informative prognostic marker (11 eligible studies, n=767, HR=1.51 (95% confidence interval, CI=1.18-1.92)) with no evidence of any significant publication bias (Egger's test, P=0.269). Bcl-2 (5 eligible studies, n=314, HR=0.51 (95% CI=0.38-0.68)), bax (5 studies, n=274, HR=0.63 (95% CI=0.48-0.83)) and p16 (3 studies, n=229, HR=0.63 (95% CI=0.43-0.92)) also returned significant overall survival differences, but in smaller patient series due to a lack of evaluable literature. Neither p53 (17 studies, n=925, HR=1.22 (95% CI=0.96-1.56)), smad4 (5 studies, n=540, HR=0.88 (95% CI=0.61-1.27)) nor EGFR (4 studies, n=250, HR=1.35 (95% CI=0.80-2.27)) was found to represent significant prognostic factors when analysing the pooled patient data. There was evidence of significant heterogeneity in four of the seven study groups.
Conclusion: These results support the case for immunohistochemical expression of VEGF representing a significant and reproducible marker of adverse prognosis in resected pancreatic cancer.