Objective: To evaluate the role of 5T4 antigen in gastric cancer progression and prognosis.
Design: A prospective study of 5T4 antigen expression in primary, secondary and recurrent gastric carcinoma, the relationship to selected prognostic parameters and the course of disease.
Patients: Eighty six patients operated on for gastric cancer. TISSUE: One hundred and twenty two gastric tumours were studied, including 86 primary carcinomas, 32 coexisting lymph node metastases and four recurrent carcinomas.
Methods: Immunohistochemistry using 5T4 monoclonal antibody on frozen sections.
Results: The 5T4 antigen was detected in 41% of primary gastric tumours including early gastric cancer. A strong relationship was found between 5T4 positivity and tumour histology. Thus, 52% of gastric carcinomas of intestinal type expressed 5T4 antigen compared with 28% of the diffuse type (P = 0.028). Among 16 sets of primary gastric carcinomas and regional lymph node metastases, coordinate 5T4 expression was seen in 14 cases; the other two showed acquisition of positivity on metastatic tumour cells (carcinomas of diffuse type). 5T4 antigen was detected more frequently in carcinomas with p53 accumulation compared with those with undetectable p53 levels (P = 0.015). The presence of 5T4 in cancer cells was correlated with poor short-term prognosis (24% vs 49% of 2 year survival for 5T4 positive and negative tumours respectively, P = 0.024). The effect on survival was evident in the p53 negative group, with patients 5T4 positive showing worse survival (28% vs 60% in 2 years).
Conclusions: Our results suggest that the assessment of 5T4 expression in gastric carcinoma can be helpful in identifying patients with poor short-term prognosis.