The biologic significance of bcl-2, bax, and p53 gene expression in patients with non-Hodgkin's gastric lymphoma is unknown. We examined the prognostic value of these genes in 36 patients with gastric lymphoma treated in our clinic between 1990 and 1995. Paraffin-embedded specimens from 36 patients who underwent primary resection of the stomach for gastric lymphoma were analyzed immunohistochemically for p53, bax, and bcl-2 gene expression. Expression of bax was seen in 24 of 36 patients (66.7%),p53 expression was found in 8 of 36 tumors (22.2%), and bcl-2 cytoplasmic staining was detected in 6 of 36 patients (16.7%). We performed a univariate analysis to examine the possible correlation between the expression of these genes and the survival of our patients. Expression of bax protein proved to be a statistically significant prognostic factor (p = 0.049). Protein expression of p53 and bcl-2 did not statistically correlate with survival. In the bcl-2- negative (-) patient group (30 patients), those who were bax-positive had a statistically significant better survival than those who were bax-negative (63.3% vs. 36.7%, p = 0.03). There was also a statistically significant correlation between p53 expression and the grade of the tumor (p = 0.0014). P53 protein expression increased along with the grade. Expression of bax is a significant prognostic factor in patients with gastric lymphoma. Its prognostic value increases significantly when studied in bcl-2-negative patients; but expression of bax failed to be an independent prognostic factor. Expression of bcl-2 and p53 has no prognostic significance. Expression of p53 seems to represent a marker for loss of differentiation.
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