Regional Heterogeneity in the Proliferative Activity of Human Gliomas as Measured by the Ki-67 Labeling Index

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The effects of regional heterogeneity on the accuracy of histological grading of gliomas are well known, but little has been reported about its implications for other diagnostic modalities. This study investigated the relationships of regional heterogeneity in tumor proliferative activity, measured by Ki-67 labeling indices (LI), and histological grades for 16 regionally sampled glioma resections. There was a strong correlation between histological grades and Ki-67 LI in individual regions (p < 0.001), and both methods demonstrated comparable heterogeneity. Heterogeneity increased with tumor grade, probably as an expression of the increased genetic instability that accompanies tumor progression. Similarly, regions with comparable proliferative activity tended to cluster, paralleling clonal expansion. Thus, both histological grading and Ki-67 LI are subject to heterogeneity-induced sampling errors that limit their diagnostic accuracy, particularly in small biopsies. However, fewer grading errors occurred when using both methods together than when using either method alone, suggesting that the use of multiple techniques may reduce the adverse effects of regional heterogeneity on diagnostic accuracy. Regional heterogeneity appears to be a ubiquitous feature of gliomas: it also has been reported in karyotype, p53 oncogene mutations, and PDGF and EGFR expression. The effects of regional heterogeneity on new methods for studying gliomas need to be considered.

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