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Clin Cancer Res. 2004 Feb 15;10(4):1401-8.

Prognostic and diagnostic significance of beta-catenin nuclear immunostaining in colorectal cancer.

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  • 1Biomedical Science, School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China.


In the present study, we investigated the prognostic and diagnostic significance of beta-catenin nuclear immunostaining in 60 specimens of normal colorectal tissue; 180 specimens of colorectal polyps, adenomas, and carcinomas; and 40 specimens from patients with the simultaneous occurrence of polyps, adenomas, and carcinomas. Additional specimens from 59 patients with colorectal carcinoma and 14 patients with adenoma who subsequently developed carcinoma were examined for possible survival study. Immunohistochemical staining showed that the occurrence of nuclear beta-catenin correlated with the sequential stages in colorectal carcinogenesis, in which positive staining was observed in 0% of normal tissues, 8% of polyps, 92% of adenomas, and 100% of carcinomas. High immunohistochemical scores in colorectal carcinoma were significantly associated with lymph node metastasis and poor survival. Adenomas associated with synchronous or metachronous carcinomas showed significantly higher levels of nuclear beta-catenin compared with adenomas without associated carcinomas. Nuclear translocation of beta-catenin was rare or absent in other types of cytokeratin 20 positive adenocarcinomas examined (99 cases). Thus, it was positive in only 7% of colonic mucinous adenocarcinomas, 3% of pancreatic adenocarcinomas, 8% of ovarian mucinous cystadenocarcinomas, and 0% of gastric adenocarcinomas. However, 100% of primary and metastatic colorectal adenocarcinomas were positive for nuclear staining for beta-catenin. Thus, nuclear staining for beta-catenin may serve as an additional parameter to help distinguish colorectal adenocarcinomas from adenocarcinomas of other tissue sites. Collectively, the present large-scale study has clearly addressed the clinical significance of beta-catenin nuclear translocation with respect to tumor progression, survival, and differential diagnosis.

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