Patients who have pathologic N2 (pN2) nonsmall cell lung cancer (pN2 NSCLC) represent a heterogeneous group with regard to prognosis and treatment. Molecular features of NSCLC seem to be of interest. For the current study, to select an appropriate therapeutic strategy for each patient, patients with N2 NSCLC were stratified into homogenous subgroups according to the expression profiles of cell cycle-related markers.
The expression levels of retinoblastoma protein (pRb), cyclin D1, p16, p53, and p21 proteins and values of the Ki-67 labeling index were evaluated in 61 primary surgically resected tumor specimens from patients with pN2 NSCLC using immunohistochemistry. The prognostic impact of these markers on overall survival was analyzed in both univariate and multivariate analyses.
In univariate analysis, p21, p16, and Ki-67 were correlated significantly with survival. In multivariate analysis, only p21 and p16 influenced survival. Indeed, the group of patients with pN2 NSCLC who were positive for p21 and p16 had the most favorable overall survival (P = .001) and were correlated significantly with the clinical lymph node (cN) status (cN2 disease; P = .008). Moreover, no significant difference in survival was observed between patients with cN0/cN1 disease and patients with cN2 disease within the group (P = .4333).
Loss of control of cell-cycle checkpoints is a common occurrence in pN2 NSCLC. Functional cooperation between different cell-cycle regulators constitutes another level of regulation in cell growth control and tumor suppression. Preoperative patients with pN2 NSCLC, even those with cN2 disease, who have positive p21 and p16 protein expression in their primary tumors are expected to have a favorable postoperative prognosis and may be candidates for primary resection. Cancer 2007. © 2007 American Cancer Society.