Background: There is a considerable degree of subjectivity and, therefore, substantial interobserver and intraobserver disagreement in the diagnosis and grading of dysplastic lesions in Barrett's esophagus (BE). The aim of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of DNA flow cytometry and immunohistochemical staining for p53 protein as objective methods to complement the conventional histologic diagnosis of dysplasia in patients with this disease. The most common problems and the possible advantages of using these procedures are analyzed briefly in this article.
Methods: Formalin fixed, paraffin embedded tissue from 55 patients diagnosed with BE were processed for flow cytometric measurements (ploidy and proliferation index) and p53 immunostaining.
Results: Both the cytometric data and the positivity of staining for p53 revealed a statistically significant increase throughout the following sequence: no dysplasia --> indefinite for dysplasia --> low grade dysplasia --> high grade dysplasia --> adenocarcinoma. There was also a highly significant correlation between the results of the cytometric study and the positivity of staining for p53.
Conclusions: In the future, the use of this procedure could play an important role in the evaluation of patients with BE. Considering that staining for p53 is technically simple, economical, and quick, and the materials required are available to most pathology laboratories, this method appears to be a firm candidate for application as a biomarker in BE. The authors have shown that it is possible to obtain adequate results for cytometric analysis with small formalin fixed, paraffin embedded biopsies if a strict protocol for the acceptance of tissue samples and/or histograms is observed.