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Blood. 2002 Jun 15;99(12):4540-6.

Expression levels of apoptosis-related proteins predict clinical outcome in anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

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Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In vitro studies suggest that resistance to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis might explain poor response to therapy in fatal cases. Actual execution of apoptosis depends on proper functioning of effector caspases, particularly caspase 3, and on the expression levels of apoptosis-regulating proteins, including Bcl-2 and the recently identified granzyme B- specific protease inhibitor 9 (PI9). Thus, high levels of caspase 3 activation should reflect proper functioning of the apoptosis pathways, resulting in chemotherapy-sensitive neoplastic cells and a favorable prognosis. We tested this hypothesis by quantifying numbers of tumor cells positive for active caspase 3, Bcl-2, and PI9, respectively, in pretreatment biopsies of systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) patients and by comparing these numbers with clinical outcome. Activation of caspase 3 in more than 5% of the tumor cells was strongly correlated with a highly favorable outcome. High numbers of Bcl-2- and PI9-positive tumor cells were found to predict unfavorable prognosis. This prognostic effect was strongly related to anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) status: ALK-positive ALCL had significantly higher levels of active caspase 3, while high expression of the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and PI9 was almost completely restricted to ALK-negative cases. In conclusion, high numbers of active caspase 3-positive tumor cells predict a highly favorable prognosis in systemic ALCL patients. Poor prognosis is strongly related to high numbers of Bcl-2- and PI9-positive neoplastic cells. These data support the notion that a favorable response to chemotherapy depends on an intact apoptosis cascade. Moreover, these data indicate that differences in prognosis between ALK-positive and ALK-negative ALCL might be explained by differences in expression of apoptosis-inhibiting proteins.

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