Abnormalities in structure and expression of the FHIT gene have been detected in a considerable fraction of primary lung tumors. Previous reports indicated that FHIT gene alterations can be simply detected by immunohistochemical methods. Therefore, we investigated the association of Fhit expression with clinicopathological features and allelic imbalance (AI) at the FHIT locus in 105 stage I non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) by the immunohistological method and PCR analysis. Thirty-six of 105 (34% ) tumors showed marked reduction of Fhit immunoreactivity. Fhit expression was markedly reduced in most squamous cell carcinomas (24 of 28, 86%), whereas such a reduction was detected only in a small subset of adenocarcinomas (7 of 67, 10%; P < 0.001 ). A marked reduction of Fhit protein expression was observed more frequently in patients with a smoksmoking history (32 of 80, 40% ) than in patients without a smoking history (4 of 25, 16%; P = 0.013). These results indicate that FHIT gene alterations preferentially occur in squamous cell carcinomas and in smokers. Furthermore, a reduction of Fhit protein expression in tumor cells was associated with a poorer survival of patients with stage I NSCLC, irrespective of histological subtypes of tumors (P = 0.005; log-rank test). Fhit expression was reduced preferentially in tumors with AI at the FHIT locus; however, AI at the FHIT locus did not correlate with patients' survival (P = 0.262; log-rank test). These results suggested that Fhit protein expression could be a useful molecular marker for the prognosis of patients with surgically resected stage I NSCLC.

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This work was supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Health and Welfare for the 2nd-term Comprehensive 10-Year Strategy for Cancer Control. Grants-in-Aid from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, from the Foundation for Promotion of Cancer Research, and from the Naito Foundation.

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