Background: Mutations in the tumor suppressor gene p53 have been associated with resistance to ionizing radiation and chemotherapy. Paclitaxel and concurrent radiation (paclitaxel/RT) achieve high response rates with locally advanced nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). In vitro data and animal studies suggest that paclitaxel may have a unique ability to activate tumor cell apoptosis in the absence of wild-type p53 function. The authors sought to determine whether p53 mutations affect response to paclitaxel/RT in patients with locally advanced NSCLC.
Methods: Thirty patients with Stage IIIA or IIIB NSCLC who participated in Brown University Oncology Group protocols utilizing paclitaxel/RT had tumor tissue that was adequate for analysis. Mutations were detected in tumor tissue by single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis of exons 5 through 8 of the p53 gene, and confirmed by direct sequencing.
Results: Mutations in p53 were found in 12 of 30 patients (40%). The response rates (complete plus partial) of 75% for patients with tumors with p53 mutations, and 83% for patients with wild-type p53, did not differ significantly (P = 0.70).
Conclusions: p53 mutations do not predict response of patients with NSCLC to paclitaxel/RT. This finding is in striking contrast to results with other chemotherapeutic agents and ionizing radiation. These clinical data support in vitro data and animal studies regarding the unique mechanism of the action of paclitaxel. Further investigation is needed to determine the mechanism of lung tumor cell death after paclitaxel/RT. These results suggest that paclitaxel/RT may be an active regimen for patients with other locally advanced neoplasms with high rates of p53 gene mutations.