Despite its potential role as a tumor suppressor, p27 gene, a member of the Cip/Kip family of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor genes, has never been found mutated in human tumors. We investigated p27 protein expression in a series of 108 non-small cell lung cancers (57.4% stage 1, 16.7% stage 2, and 25.9% stage 3) to determine whether the lack or altered expression of this protein correlates with neoplastic transformation and/or progression. We performed immunohistochemistry and Western blot analysis of each specimen. We found that tumors expressing low to undetectable levels of p27 contained high p27 degradation activity. When we evaluated the outcome of the patients in relationship to p27 expression, we found p27 to be a prognostic factor correlating with the overall survival times (P = 0.0012).
The possibility of a simple assay, such as the immunohistochemical analysis of p27 expression on routinely formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens, has considerable value for the prognosis of patients who undergo surgical resection. In addition, confirmation of the involvement of the proteasome-mediated proteolysis in p27 degradation should stimulate new strategies of nonsurgical treatments of non-small cell lung cancer.
This work was supported by Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine. NIH Grants RO1 CA60999-01A1 and PO1 N536466, and The Council for Tobacco Research (to A. G.). M. P. is in part supported by an NIH Grant CA66229-02. V. E. is supported by a fellowship from the Second Università di Napoli (Dottorato di Ricerca in Broncopneumologia). A. D. L. is supported by an Advanced Fellowship NATO-CNR.