Objective The p53, bcl-2, and bax genes are known to be involved in control of cell cycle progression and regulation of apoptotic cell death. Although they are frequently altered in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma, their clinical relevance is not yet fully understood. In the present study, individual and combined expressions of these genes were related with patient survival as well as with proliferative and apoptotic activity.
Design Retrospective study.
Methods Paraffin-embedded tissue sections of 88 laryngeal squamous cell carcinomas that were diagnosed and treated between 1986 and 1996 were investigated for p53, bcl-2, and bax protein expression by immunohistochemistry. Apoptotic cells were visualized using the nick end labeling method. To assess proliferative activity of tumors, mitotic indices were determined.
Results Age of patients, advanced disease (stages III and IV), high mitotic activity, positive bcl-2 expression, high level of p53 expression, and p53/bcl-2 co-expression were significantly associated with shortened overall survival in univariate analysis. In multivariate analysis, only age and p53/bcl-2 co-expression had independent prognostic value. Other combinations of genes, i.e., bcl-2-to-bax and p53-to-bax ratios, were not associated with patient outcome. A significant positive correlation was found between apoptotic and mitotic activity. However, protein levels of p53, bcl-2, and bax were unrelated to proliferation and apoptosis of tumor cells.
Conclusions The co-expression of p53/bcl-2 was an independent predictor of patient outcome and had a prognostic value superior to both parameters considered separately. The rate of apoptosis mainly counterbalanced proliferative activity but appeared not to be significantly influenced by p53, bcl-2, and bax.