Background: The ability to predict biologic behavior and treatment responsiveness would be a valuable asset in the multimodality approach to esophageal carcinoma. The authors examined whether alterations of the p53 gene correlate with clinicopathologic parameters, response to preoperative chemotherapy/radiotherapy, and outcome in patients with esophageal carcinoma. METHODS. Histopathologic/genetic analysis of p53 was performed on formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tissues. Tissue sections were stained immunohistochemically for p53 protein followed by topographic genotyping comprised of polymerase chain reaction amplification and direct sequencing of p53 exons 5-8. All patients received induction chemotherapy (5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, and alpha-interferon) and concurrent external beam radiotherapy (4500 centigrays) followed by resection.
Results: p53 analysis performed on 42 tumors from patients with potentially resectable esophageal carcinoma revealed 25 of the 42 tumors (59.5%) to be p53 immunopositive; however, only 17 of the 42 tumors (40.5%) were proven to contain p53 point mutational damage in exons 8 (n=5), 5 (n=5), 7 (n=4), and 6 (n=3). Eight cases were weakly immunopositive and had no genotype mutation suggesting hyperexpression of normal wild-type p53. Genotyping also identified two immunonegative cases with deletion-type mutations (exons 5 and 6). Tissue samples collected before and after chemotherapy/radiotherapy exhibited fidelity in p53 mutational genotype in all cases. The presence of a p53 point mutation positively correlated with pTNM stage (P=0.003) and residual disease in the resected specimen (P=0.01). Moreover, survival of patients with p53 mutations was significantly lower than that of patients without mutations (overall survival of 21.6 months vs. 40 months; P=0.0038; and disease free survival of 14.1 months vs. 38 months; P=0.0004).
Conclusions: Histopathologic/genetic analysis is a better determinant of p53 mutational damage than immunohistochemistry alone and can be used as a prognostic marker for esophageal carcinoma. p53 genotyping may define a subset of patients who respond to chemotherapy/radiotherapy and may predict who potentially benefits from multimodality therapy.