Evaluation of Intratumoral and Intertumoral Heterogeneity of MET Protein Expression in Gastric Cancer

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Abstract

Tumor heterogeneity of a target molecule could contribute to failure of the targeted therapy. We investigated the heterogeneity of MET expression within same primary gastric cancer (GC) and between primary and corresponding secondary GC lesions using immunohistochemistry (IHC). Intratumoral heterogeneity was defined as discordant MET status among 3 tissue microarray cores (3 different areas of same tumor). IHC 3+ was considered positive for MET overexpression. MET overexpression was observed in 2.7% (50/1869) of all examined cores and 5.3% (33/623) of primary GCs. When we compared MET IHC results between 3 cores from each tumor, intratumoral heterogeneity was identified (65.0% in total 623 cases; 84.4% in 480 cases with any staining intensity; 84.9% in 251 cases with moderate to strong intensity; 90.9% in 33 cases with strong intensity). Of 33 MET-overexpressed GCs, the average proportion of strongly stained area was 19.6% in the whole sections. Of 269 cases with primary GC and regional lymph node metastasis, 17 (6.3%) showed MET positivity in which 9 (52.9%) were discordant (negative conversion). In 123 cases with primary and corresponding local recurrent/distant metastatic GC, 3 (2.4%) showed MET positivity in which 2 (66.7%) were discordant (positive conversion). In the survival analysis, MET IHC 3+ in lymph node metastases was an independent negative prognostic factor for overall survival. We found that MET overexpression is uncommon and highly heterogeneous in GC. This severe heterogeneity of MET status should be considered in tissue sampling and development of biomarkers for anti-MET therapy.

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