Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are synthesized by cells in response to various stress conditions, including carcinogenesis. The expression of HSPs in neoplasia has been implicated in the regulation of apoptosis, and HSPs also can act by increasing immunity. In the current study, the authors attempted to clarify the significance of HSPs in bladder carcinoma and their effect on tumor behavior.
Expression levels of the 27-kilodalton HSP (HSP27), HSP60, HSP70, and HSP90 were studied using immunohistochemistry on tissue sections from 42 transitional cell carcinomas of the bladder (14 Grade 1 tumors; 13 Grade 2 tumors; 15 Grade 3 tumors, including 3 tumors associated with carcinoma in situ; 30 Stage Ta tumors; 7 Stage T1 tumors; and 5 Stage T2 tumors). Bladder specimens from 10 healthy patients were used as controls in the study. The selected patients had a mean follow-up of 52 months (range, 24–78 months). Among the 37 patients with superficial bladder carcinoma, 17 patients did not have any recurrence after undergoing primary resection, and 20 patients developed recurrent disease, including 4 recurrences with muscle invasion. HSP expression was evaluated according to the percentage of positively stained cells, and loss of expression was defined as < 80% of stained cells.
In normal bladder specimens, all four HSPs (HSP27, HSP60, HSP70, and HSP90) were expressed strongly in the cytoplasm and membrane from the basal cell layer to the superficial cell layer. Loss of expression was detected in tumors: respectively, 45.2%, 38.1%, 69.0% and 23.8% of tumors showed a loss of immunostaining for HSP27, HSP60, HSP70, and HSP90. No correlation between HSP expression and grade was found. Low expression levels of HSP27 and HSP60 were correlated with higher tumor stage (87% vs. 6% [P < 0.001] and 78% vs. 9% [P < 0.01], respectively). HSP60 and HSP90 expression levels were correlated with final outcome for patients with superficial bladder carcinoma: loss of expression was associated with the risk of developing an infiltrating recurrence (97% vs. 6.0% [P < 0.001] and 88.2% vs. 52.5% [P = 0.02] for HSP60 and HSP90, respectively).
HSPs were expressed in normal urothelium, and the current results indicated that loss of HSP60 and HSP90 expression may have prognostic relevance in patients with bladder carcinoma. The authors believe that HSP60 may be a very useful marker for patients with superficial bladder carcinoma and may be used for predicting disease progression. If these data are confirmed, low HSP60 expression levels may be usable as a prognostic marker to identify patients for whom local treatment would be insufficient. Cancer 2003;98:970–7. © 2003 American Cancer Society.