Apoptosis and Expression of Bcl-2 and Bax Proteins in Invasive Ductal Carcinoma of the Pancreas

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Summary:The Bcl-2 family of genes plays important roles in the regulation of apoptosis. The present study was designed to assess the clinicopathologic significance of apoptosis and the expression of the apoptosis-inhibitory Bcl-2 protein (pBcl-2) and the apoptosis-promoting Bax protein (pBax) in human invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs) of the pancreas. The present study included 66 IDCs that were resected between 1982 and 1998. Apoptosis was assessed by the in situ nick end labeling method and pBcl-2 and pBax were stained immunohistochemically. Apoptosis was quantified as the apoptotic index (AI, the percentage of apoptotic cells of the total tumor cells), and a high AI (>10%) was observed in 26 of the 66 (39%) IDCs. The AI correlated significantly with the extent of nodal involvement. pBax immunoreactivity was detected in 42 of 66 IDCs (64%), and pBax expression was significantly correlated with female gender and showed a significant negative correlation with the extent of nodal involvement. pBcl-2 was expressed in 16 IDCs (24%) but did not show any correlation with the clinicopathologic factors. The AI did not correlate with the expression of pBcl-2 or pBax, but there was a significant correlation between the expression of pBcl-2 and that of pBax; 15 of the 16 pBcl-2(+)IDCs were also pBax(+), and only one pBcl-2(+)IDC was pBax(−). Univariate analysis demonstrated that the degree of apoptosis had no significant influence on the patients' prognosis. pBax or pBcl-2 expression was significantly associated with a better prognosis, and in particular, the pBax(+)pBcl-2(+) group had a significantly higher survival than the other groups. On the other hand, the survival curve of the adjuvant chemotherapy (ACT) group was also higher than that of the surgery alone (SA) group, with borderline statistical signfiicance. The ACT group showed a significantly better survival rate than the SA group for the pBax(+)IDC patients, but the AI and pBcl-2 expression were not correlated with an improved survival rate in the ACT group. Multivariate analysis showed that the AI, pBcl-2 expression, and pBax expression by themselves did not represent significant variables for death owing to IDC, but pBax expression was significantly associated with the efficacy of ACT. In conclusion, pBax expression may be essential for pBcl-2 expression. pBcl-2 and pBax expressions are not significant prognostic factors for patients with IDC, but pBax expression may be beneficial in predicting the effects of ACT on patients with IDC.

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