Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression was immunohistochemically examined in 59 human lung cancers as well as in normal and premalignant lung specimens. In contrast to scattered weak reactivity seen in normal peripheral airway epithelial cells, markedly up-regulated COX-2 expression was detected in about one-third of atypical adenomatous hyperplasias and carcinoma in situ specimens, and a significant increase in COX-2 expression was observed in 70% of invasive adenocarcinoma cases. Interestingly, the proportion of adenocarcinoma cells with marked COX-2 expression was much greater in lymph node metastases than in the corresponding primary tumors. In contrast, small cell carcinomas showed virtually negligible expression, and squamous cell carcinomas showed infrequent and low expression. These findings suggest that an increase in COX-2 expression may be associated with the development of adenocarcinomas and possibly with acquisition of an invasive and metastatic phenotype.
This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Cancer Research from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan; by a grant for Biomedical Research from Bristol Myers Squibb; by a grant from the Smoking Research Foundation; and by a Grant-in-Aid for Encouragement of Young Scientists from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Japan.