We have measured gastrin receptors (GR) in surgical specimens from 67 patients with primary colon cancers in order to determine the clinical significance of GR in colon cancer. GR analysis was performed on these specimens, and 22 cancers (32.8%) had no detectable GR. Thirty-eight cancers (56.7%) had high-affinity (Kd < 1.0 nm) levels of GR. Seven cancers (10.4%) had only low-affinity GR (Kd > 1.0 nm). Twenty patients (29.9%) had cancers with GR > 10 fmol/mg protein. Mean GR content was significantly greater (11.8 ± 2.9 fmol/mg protein) in Dukes' Stage A and B cancers when compared to Stage C and D cancers (6.2 ± 1.6 fmol/mg protein). A significantly greater percentage (52.4%) of patients in the early stages (A and B) had tumors with >10 fmol/mg protein compared to patients with more advanced (C and D) cancers (19.6%). GR content did not correlate with histological differentiation, patient age, or preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen levels. No difference in the GR content was noted between left and right colon cancers or in patients of different sex or race. GR content of normal colon mucosa correlated with the GR content of colon cancers from the same surgical specimen, suggesting that these tumors maintain their normal complement of GR. In the early period of follow-up, 12 of 43 (28%) Stage C and D patients with GR < 10 fmol/mg protein have died, whereas all 8 Stage C and D patients with GR > 10 fmol/mg protein are alive. GR content of colon cancers may have prognostic significance and may identify a group of patients with colon cancer that may benefit from hormonal therapy with antigastrin drugs.


Supported by grants from the NIH (5R37 DK 15241-17, PO1 DK 35608, CA 38651, MO1 RR00073) and a grant from the American Cancer Society (PDT-220).

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