Cell cycle/apoptosis molecule expression correlates with imatinib response in patients with advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumors
Purpose: Altered expression of cell cycle/apoptosis key regulators may promote tumor progression, reflect secondary genetic/epigenetic events, and impair the effectiveness of therapy. Their expression pattern might then identify gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) patient subgroups with different response to imatinib and elucidate novel therapeutic targets. Experimental Design: Immunohistochemical evaluation of expression of p53, p16, p21, CHK2, CCND1, BCL2, CDK4, and MDM2 was done on 353 histologically validated GIST patients enrolled into a European/Australasian phase III trial. TP53 was screened for mutations in cases with presumptive nonfunctional protein; that is, high p53 and low expression of the two downstream molecules p21 and MDM2. Results were correlated with clinicopathologic data, KIT/PDGFRA mutation status, and imatinib dosage. Results: Frequent impaired expression was found for BCL2 (78%), CHK2 (53%), p53 (50%), and p16 (47%). Stomach-originating GISTs showed significantly lower expression of p21, p16, and BCL2. KIT/PDGFRA wild-type GISTs had significant lower expression of CDK4. Eighty-eight percent of the high p53 expressers show low downstream target activation, indicating a nonfunctional p53 route. Of these high p53 expressers, 16.4% harbor a detectable TP53 mutation. Multivariate analysis, including previously identified markers, showed an independent effect of p53 and p16 on progression-free survival (PFS). Patients with high level of CHK2 and p21 showed significantly better PFS upon a high-dose regimen. Conclusions: Impaired p53, p16, BCL2, and CHK2 expression is common in advanced GISTs. Distinct patterns of expression correlate with tumor site, genotype, and PFS. Cell cycle/apoptosis maintenance is instrumental for optimal response to imatinib.