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Virchows Arch. 1995;427(1):19-26.

Immunohistochemical and molecular analysis of p53, MDM2, proliferating cell nuclear antigen and Ki67 in benign and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours.

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Department of Pathology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden.


A series of 26 malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNST) and 24 benign peripheral nerve sheath tumours (BPNST) were analysed immunocytochemically for p53 expression and the cell proliferation markers proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) and Ki67 (with MIB1). In 23/26 MPNST, 5%-65% of the tumour cell nuclei were immunoreactive for Ki67 with MIB1 while none of the 24 BPNST had nuclear staining exceeding 5%. Greater than 50% nuclear PCNA staining was detected in 25/26 MPNST compared with 8/24 BPNST; 17/26 MPNST showed 5-100% nuclear staining for p53 (13/26 > 20%), whereas none of the BPNST had nuclear staining exceeding 1%. The Ki67, PCNA and p53 immunostaining results correlated significantly with benign versus malignant (P < 0.001, P < 0.001 and P < 0.005, respectively) as well as mitotic rate (P < 0.001, P < 0.05 and P < 0.05). Ki67 immunostaining results correlated significantly with PCNA and p53, as did p53 and Ki67 and PCNA (P < 0.001 in both). Stepwise (logistic regression forward) multivariate analysis of the variable, benign versus malignant, revealed the strongest correlations with PCNA (P = 0.007) and Ki67 (P = 0.021). Direct confirmation of the presence of p53 protein was obtained by western blot analysis of 3 MPNST and 5 BPNST. Two MPNST, showing 90% and 30% immunoreactivity, were positive for p53, while one MPNST with 5% immunoreactivity and all 5 BPNST were negative. Southern blot analysis performed on the two MPNST with high p53 protein levels revealed no amplification of the MDM2 gene, suggesting that high p53 levels in MPNST are likely to be due to mutation. The results also indicate that PCNA and Ki67 are potentially useful in distinguishing BPNST from MPNST, particularly in problematic cases of cellular schwannoma versus MPNST. The detection of p53 in a large percentage of cells of a plexiform neurofibroma giving rise to MPNST and Ki67 in 5% and 25% of cells of two similar cases suggests that malignant transformation may be detected in some cases by p53 and proliferation markers prior to overt histological evidence of malignancy.

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