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Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol. 2007 Dec;15(4):401-6.

Coexpression of c-kit and bcl-2 in small cell carcinoma and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the lung.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, Elmwood 601, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


It has been shown that tyrosine kinase oncoprotein c-kit and antiapoptotic molecule bcl-2 are overexpressed in several types of malignancy, including small cell carcinoma (SCLC) and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC) of the lung. Whether these 2 molecules are coexpressed in lung neuroendocrine tumors has not been investigated. Here, we analyzed immunohistochemical results to determine expression and coexpression patterns of c-kit and bcl-2 in the spectrum of lung neuroendocrine tumors. Using a polyclonal antibody against c-kit and a monoclonal antibody against bcl-2, our data demonstrated that all 7 cases (100%) of SCLC included in this study were positive for both c-kit and bcl-2. Among 14 LCNECs, 7 (50%) stained positive for c-kit and 9 (64%) for bcl-2. All cases of high grade neuroendocrine carcinomas (SCLCs and LCNECs) that showed positive staining for c-kit coexpressed bcl-2. In contrast, all typical and atypical carcinoids (TC and AC) were negative for c-kit, and only 1 of 16 (6.3%) TCs and 1 of 6 (16.7%) ACs stained positive for bcl-2. These results indicate a progressive increase in the frequency of c-kit and bcl-2 expression and coexpression, from carcinoid tumors (TC and AC) to LCNEC and to SCLC. High grade neuroendocrine carcinomas are more likely to coexpress c-kit and bcl-2 when compared with carcinoid tumors. The high frequency of coexpression of these 2 molecules in high grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the lung suggests that they may be involved in the carcinogenic pathway, given their important roles in carcinogenesis. Therapeutic targeting on both c-kit and bcl-2 molecules might be beneficial in the management of patients with high grade neuroendocrine carcinomas of the lung in the future.

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