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Surgery. 2002 Jan;131(1 Suppl):S226-31.

Micrometastasis in the bone marrow of patients with lung cancer associated with a reduced expression of E-cadherin and beta-catenin: risk assessment by immunohistochemistry.

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Department of Surgery and Science, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.



The presence of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow is considered to be a premetastatic state, which is called micrometastasis. To evaluate the relationship between micrometastasis and cellular adhesion molecules in the primary lesion, E-cadherin and beta-catenin were immunohistochemically investigated. Methods. Fifty-eight patients with non-small cell lung cancer who underwent a complete resection were entered into this study. Tumor cells in bone marrow aspirates were detected by immunohistochemistry using cytokeratin (CK) 18. Immunohistochemical studies of E-cadherin and beta-catenin were performed in the corresponding primary tumor.


CK-positive cells were detected in the bone marrow aspirates from 27 of 58 patients. A reduced expression of the E-cadherin and beta-catenin was found in 16 (27.6%) and in 22 (37.9%) of 58 patients, respectively. In 26 cases with a reduced expression of E-cadherin and/or beta-catenin, 16 cases had CK-positive cells, whereas 11 of 32 cases with normal expression of both factors had CK-positive cells (P=.0392). The patients with micrometastasis demonstrated an earlier recurrence (P =.0642) and a significantly poorer survival (P =.0437) than those without such cells.


Micrometastasis in the bone marrow might be a significant predictor of poor prognosis, and a reduced expression of E-cadherin and beta-catenin are important determinants for the metastatic capability of individual cancer cells.

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