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Oncol Rep. 2010 May;23(5):1345-50.

Immunohistochemical characterization of pyrimidine synthetic enzymes, thymidine kinase-1 and thymidylate synthase, in various types of cancer.

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Laboratory of Pathology, Division of Medical Biophysics, Kobe University Graduate School of Health Sciences, Hyogo, Japan.


Thymidine kinase-1 (TK-1) and thymidylate synthase (TS) are key enzymes for salvage and de novo pyrimidine synthesis, respectively. Numerous studies have suggested that increased TS levels are associated closely with resistance to fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy. TAS-102 is a novel drug containing trifluorothymidine, which is phosphorylated by TK-1 to its active monophosphated form, that in turn can inhibit TS. TAS-102 has been shown to exhibit antitumor activity in fluoropyrimidine-resistant human cancer cells. TAS-102 is currently undergoing clinical trials for use in gastrointestinal cancers. In the present study, we used immunohistochemistry to investigate the expression of TK-1 and TS in various types of cancer. TK-1 and TS expression was markedly different between cancer types. High TK-1 expression was detected prominently in gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas and esophageal and uterine squamous cell carcinomas. Gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas and squamous cell uterine carcinomas were often accompanied by high TS expression, indicating activation of pyrimidine synthesis through both the salvage and de novo pathways. These results led us to consider that TAS-102 may also be effective for esophageal and uterine squamous cell carcinomas, as well as for gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas, even in fluoropyrimidine-resistant cases with high TS expression. In contrast, thyroid papillary carcinomas, lung adenocarcinomas, hepatocellular carcinomas, pancreatic ductal carcinomas, and renal cell carcinomas, which exhibit low TK-1 expression, may be resistant to TAS-102. In non-small cell lung cancers, high TK-1 expression was demonstrated in squamous cell carcinomas, but not in adenocarcinomas. This result suggests that TAS-102 efficacy and the pyrimidine synthetic pathway may differ depending on histological type. Our results indicate that administration of TAS-102 could be selected on the basis of the immunohistochemical evaluation of TK-1 and TS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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