Background: In the past 4 years, the weekly 24-hour infusion of high dose 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin in the treatment of patients with advanced gastric carcinoma has been prospectively studied at the authors' institution. This has enabled them to explore the possibility that the level of expression of thymidylate synthase (TS), the target enzyme of 5-FU, is related to the drug sensitivity of gastric carcinoma to 5-FU-based chemotherapy.
Methods: To be eligible for this study, patients were required to have received high dose 5-FU and leucovorin chemotherapy (weekly 24-hour infusions of 5-FU, 2,600 mg/m2, and leucovorin, 300 mg/m2) and to have had adequate prechemotherapy gastric carcinoma tissues for immunohistochemical study. TS106 monoclonal antibody was used to detect the expression of TS. A visual scoring system, which ranged from 0 to 3+, was adopted by 2 independent pathologists to semiquantitate the intensity of TS expression.
Results: Between 1993 and 1996, a total of 30 patients, 18 men and 12 women, with a median age of 61.5 years, were enrolled. Of these patients, 16 (53.3%) and 14 (46.7%) had high and low expression of TS, respectively. Two of the 16 patients (12.5%) with high expression of TS and 13 of the 14 patients (92.9%) with low expression of TS responded to chemotherapy (P < 0.001, chi-square test). The median overall survival was 10 months for patients with low TS expression and 4 months for patients with high TS expression (P < 0.01, log rank test).
Conclusions: The data from this study suggest that the expression of TS, as determined by immunohistochemistry, is a relatively reliable indicator of whether 5-FU should be used in the treatment of patients with gastric carcinoma.