Prognostic value of bcl-2 oncoprotein expression in stage II colon carcinoma
Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
The bcl-2 proto-oncogene encodes a Mr 25,000 protein that has been shown to prevent apoptosis or programmed cell death. The bcl-2 protein is detectable in basal cells of normal colonic epithelium, and an altered topographic distribution of this protein is found in colonic neoplasms. However, the clinical significance of abnormal bcl-2 expression in colon carcinomas remains unknown. We examined the prognostic value of the bcl-2 protein in TNM stage II colon carcinomas and its relationship to DNA ploidy, cell proliferation indices, p53 expression, and clinicopathological features. We analyzed 119 resected and otherwise untreated, paraffin-embedded stage II colon carcinomas for bcl-2 and p53 protein expression using immunohistochemistry. DNA ploidy and proliferative index (% S-phase + % G2-M) were determined by flow cytometry, and tumor grade and vascular microinvasion were assessed on histological sections. Cytoplasmic expression of the bcl-2 protein was detected in 72 (66%) of 110 carcinomas, and a high level of expression was significantly correlated with diploid DNA content (P = 0.02) and low proliferative activity (P = 0.005). bcl-2 was not associated with nuclear p53 expression. In a univariate analysis, a higher fraction of bcl-2-positive tumor cells was associated with better relapse-free survival (P = 0.02) and overall survival (P = 0.05) rates. Moreover, a high level of bcl-2 expression was an independent predictor of better relapse-free survival (P = 0.04), but not overall survival (P = 0.14), after adjustment for other variables, including proliferative index, DNA ploidy, and race. In conclusion, bcl-2 overexpression is associated with favorable prognostic features and may predict clinical outcome in stage II colon carcinomas.