Preliminary report on the effect of brachytherapy on expression of p53, bc1-2 and apoptosis in squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus.
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Pre-brachytherapy biopsies and post-brachytherapy oesophagectomy specimens of 10 patients with early squamous cell carcinoma of the middle third of the oesophagus were examined for the expression of p53, bcl-2 and apoptosis using immunohistochemical markers. There was no expression of p53 in one patient in both pre- and post-brachytherapy specimens. In 8 patients, p53 staining was strongly positive (3+) with approximately 50% or more cells, and with diffuse and no specific pattern in the pre-brachytherapy biopsies. The tumour areas of the post-brachytherapy specimens of this group showed strong 3+ positivity with p53 (10-50% positive cell count), with the pattern being focal and peripheral in the tumour islands. The centre of the tumour islands showed necrosis and/or keratinisation. In one patient, the pre-brachytherapy biopsy showed expression of p53 while the post-brachytherapy specimen was negative. bcl-2 expression in both pre- and post-brachytherapy was equivocal and inconclusive in both the pre- and post-brachytherapy specimens. Apoptosis was negative in all the pre- and post-brachytherapy tissue sections in the presence of positive controls. Brachytherapy does not cause cell death by apoptosis but by necrosis and maturation of the cells into better differentiated cells, which is caused by OH free radical, and induction of the keratin gene respectively. It is possible that brachytherapy may cause destruction of cells containing wild-type p53, while mutant p53 in cells located at the tumour periphery escape the effect of brachytherapy. This may be responsible for the high incidence of local recurrence and distant metastasis in oesophageal cancer treated with radiotherapy. There is no effect of brachytherapy on bcl-2 expression in oesophageal cancer.