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J Pathol. 1999 Feb;187(3):302-7.

p21WAF1/CIP1 expression in colorectal carcinoma correlates with advanced disease stage and p53 mutations.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, European Institute of Oncology, University of Milan School of Medicine, Italy.


Defects in the mechanisms controlling the cell cycle are crucial in cell transformation and/or tumour progression. p21WAF1/CIP1 is an inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases, induced by p53-dependent and p53-independent pathways, which can block progression through the cell cycle. p21WAF1/CIP1 expression has been investigated immunohistochemically in a series of 191 patients with colorectal cancer of known p53 status. The purpose of the study was two-fold: to assess the relationship between p21WAF1/CIP1 immunoreactivity and p53 alterations, and to evaluate the prognostic significance of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression. In 96 carcinomas (51 per cent), p21WAF1/CIP1 was expressed in over 10 per cent of tumour cells, whereas in 26, p21WAF1/CIP1 was detected in under 10 per cent of neoplastic cells; 69 tumours lacked p21WAF1/CIP1 expression. Immunoreactivity was more frequent in tumours of the right colon (p < 0.003) and was inversely correlated with tumour stage (p < 0.03), p53 gene mutations (p < 0.0007), p53 protein accumulation (p < 0.019), and Bcl-2 expression (p < 0.0005). In univariate analysis, down-regulation of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression was associated with poor overall (p = 0.0022) and disease-free survival (p = 0.0009). Multivariate analysis, however, did not confirm any independent prognostic significance of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression. The results indicate that p21WAF1/CIP1 is associated with abnormal accumulation of p53 protein and the occurrence of p53 gene mutations in colorectal cancer and that lack of p21WAF1/CIP1 expression is correlated with reduced patient survival in univariate analysis. These data underline the crucial pathogenetic role of the p53-p21WAF1/CIP1 pathway in carcinomas of the large bowel.

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