Objective: To investigate whether cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is expressed by equine ocular and adnexal squamous cell carcinomas (SCC).
Methods: Forty-three samples of histologically confirmed cases of ocular SCC or carcinoma in situ (CIS) from 34 horses presented to the Animal Health Trust between 1992 and 2004 were subjected to a standard, two-layered, indirect immunohistochemical method using a rabbit polyclonal antihuman COX-2 antibody. Ten formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue samples taken from recognized predilection sites for SCC, from the grossly normal eyes of 10 horses euthanized for reasons unrelated to this study, were used as negative controls. Samples of equine fetal kidney were used as positive controls. Following immunolabeling, the number of normal and neoplastic epithelial cells exhibiting positive COX-2 expression was recorded along with staining intensity and distribution.
Results: Of 43 tumors, 34 were defined as first presentation tumors. When compared with control tissue, in which 0% (0/10) of samples expressed COX-2, significantly more of these samples with SCC (58.6%, 17/29: P = 0.002), CIS (60%, 3/5: P = 0.022) or either tumor type (58.8%, 20/34: P = 0.001) exhibited positive cytoplasmic and perinuclear immunohistochemical staining for COX-2. Of the samples exhibiting positive immunohistochemical staining, only 10% (2/20) showed staining in 2%–10% of neoplastic cells, while 90% (18/20) showed staining in 1% of neoplastic cells. About 70% (14/20) of those positively immunolabeled samples exhibited an intensity of staining greater than or equal to the staining exhibited by the equine fetal kidney positive control.
Conclusion: Neoplastic tissue from both equine ocular SCC and CIS exhibit COX-2 expression at significantly higher levels than normal control ocular tissue. However, the percentage of cells expressing positive immunohistochemical staining is consistently low. On the basis of this study, it is unlikely that anti-COX-2 therapy would be of benefit in the treatment of equine ocular and adnexal SCC.