A retrospective study on expression and clinical significance of PHH3, Ki67 and P53 in bladder exophytic papillary urothelial neoplasms

PeerJ. 2023 Jul 11:11:e15675. doi: 10.7717/peerj.15675. eCollection 2023.


Background: Exophytic papillary urothelial neoplasms (EPUN) are difficult to diagnose pathologically and are well-known for their heterogeneous prognoses. Thus, searching for an objective and accurate diagnostic marker is of great clinical value in improving the outcomes of EPUN patients. PHH3 was reported to be expressed explicitly in the mitotic phase of the cell cycle, and recent studies have shown that PHH3 expression was associated with the differential diagnosis and prognosis of many tumors. However, its significance in EPUN remains unclear. This study aimed to determine the expression of PHH3 in different EPUN, compare its expression with cell-cycle related proteins Ki67 and P53, and analyze its significance in the differential diagnosis and prognostic value for high-grade papillary urothelial carcinoma (HGPUC), low-grade papillary urothelial carcinoma (LGPUC), papillary urothelial neoplasm of low malignant potential (PUNLMP) and urothelial papilloma (UP).

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the pathological diagnosis and clinical features of 26 HGPUC cases, 43 LGPUC cases, 21 PUNLMP cases and 11 UP cases. PHH3, Ki67 and P53 were detected by immunohistochemistry in 101 EPUN cases samples. The cut-off values of PHH3 mitosis count (PHMC), HE mitosis count (HEMC), Ki67 and P53 in the different EPUN were determined using the ROC curve. The distribution of counts in each group and its relationship with clinical parameters and prognosis of EPUN patients were also analyzed.

Results: The determination coefficient (R2 = 0.9980) of PHMC were more potent than those of HEMC (R2 = 0.9734) in the EPUN mitotic counts microscopically by both pathologists. Of the 101 EPUN cases investigated, significant positive linear correlations were found between PHMC and HEMC, PHMC and Ki67, and HEMC and Ki67 (P < 0.0001). In HGPUC, LGPUC, PUNLMP and UP, a decreasing trend was observed in the median and range of PHMC/10HPFs, HEMC/10HPFs, Ki67 (%) and P53 (%). PHMC, HEMC, Ki67 and P53 were associated with different clinical parameters of EPUN. PHMC, HEMC, Ki67 and P53 were found to exhibit substantial diagnostic values among different EPUN and tumor recurrence. Based on the ROC curve, when PHMC was >48.5/10HPFs, a diagnosis of HGPUC was more likely, and when PHMC was >13.5/10HPFs, LGPUC was more likely. In addition, when PHMC was >5.5/10HPFs, the possibility of non-infiltrating LGPUC was greater. Kaplan-Meier survival curve analysis showed that the median recurrence-free survival (RFS) for cases with PHMC > 13.5/10HPFs and HEMC > 14.5/10HPFs were 52.5 and 48 months, respectively, and their respective hazard ratio was significantly higher (Log-rank P < 0.05).

Conclusion: PHH3 exhibited high specificity and sensitivity in diagnosing EPUN. Combined with HEMC, Ki67 and P53, it can assist in the differential diagnosis of EPUN and estimate its clinical progression with high predictive value to a certain extent.

Keywords: Exophytic papillary urothelial neoplasm (EPUN); HE mitosis count (HEMC); Ki67; P53; PHH3 mitosis count (PHMC).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell* / diagnosis
  • Clinical Relevance
  • Humans
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Urinary Bladder / metabolism
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Urologic Neoplasms*


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Shandong Province National Natural Science Foundation (ZR2020MH149) and Scientific research project of Weifang Health Commission (Grant No. WFWSJK-2022-231). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.