Background: In gastric adenocarcinoma the gastrin autocrine-paracrine pathway is activated. As enterochromaffin-like (ECL) cells originate from the same stem as epithelial cells, the aim of this study was to determine if the gastrin autocrine pathway is present in gastric carcinoid.
Methods: Samples from ten patients with gastric carcinoid were assessed by immunocytochemistry using primary antibodies directed against gastrin precursors and the gastrin/cholecystokinin B receptor and detected using the avidin-biotin immunoperoxidase system.
Results: A high level of expression of precursor and mature gastrin peptides, together with the gastrin receptor, was seen in all carcinoids screened.
Conclusion: In common with the glandular epithelium of the stomach the gastrin gene is activated during the neoplastic process in ECL cells. This finding may explain why some carcinoids do not regress after surgical procedures that lower serum gastrin. Antigastrin agents may be a useful treatment for carcinoid either in their own right or as an adjunct to surgery.