Expression ofp53,ras and PCNA in human colonic neoplasms: Possible biomarkers of malignant potential

Elisabeth Darmon Kern, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer mortality and early detection can significantly improve the clinical outcome. Most colorectal cancers arise from benign neoplastic lesions recognized as adenomas. Only a small percentage of all adenomas will become malignant. Thus, there is a need to identify specific markers of malignant potential. Studies at the molecular level have demonstrated an accumulation of genetic alterations, some hereditary but for the most occurring in somatic cells. The most common are the activation of ras, an oncogene involved in signal transduction, and the inactivation of p53, a tumor suppressor gene implicated in cell cycle regulation. In this study, 38 carcinomas, 95 adenomas and 20 benign polyps were analyzed by immunohistochemistry for the abnormal expression of p53 and ras proteins. An index of cellular proliferation was also measured by labeling with PCNA. A general overexpression of p53 was immunodetected in 66% of the carcinomas, while 26% of adenomas displayed scattered individual positive cells or a focal high concentration of positive cells. This later was more associated with severe dysplasia. Ras protein was detected in 37% of carcinomas and 32% of adenomas mostly throughout the tissue. p53 immunodetection was more frequent in adenomas originating in colons with synchronous carcinomas, particularly in patients with familial adenomatous polyposis and it may be a useful marker in these cases. Difference in the frequency of p53 and ras alterationbs was related to the location of the neoplasm. Immunodetection of p53 protein was correlated to the presence of a mutation in p53 gene at exon 7 and 5 in 4/6 carcinomas studied and 2 villous adenomas. Thus, we characterized in adenomas the abnormal expression of two proteins encoded by the most commonly altered genes in colorectal cancer. p53 alteration appears to be more specifically associated with transition to malignancy than ras. By using immunohistochemistry, a technique that keeps the architecture of the tissue intact, it was possible to correlate these alterations to histopathological characteristics that were associated with higher risks for transformation: villous content, dysplasia and size of adenoma.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Surgery

Recommended Citation

Darmon Kern, Elisabeth, "Expression ofp53,ras and PCNA in human colonic neoplasms: Possible biomarkers of malignant potential" (1993). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9431749.