We studied the expression of p21, the ras encoded protein, in primary tumour of 45 patients with papillary thyroid cancer (PTC). Patients were grouped according to outcome so that one group (31 patients) had a good outcome and the other (14 patients) a fatal outcome, after a follow-up of at least 5 years. The presence of p21 ras protein was assessed by immunohistochemistry with a specific monoclonal antibody (MAb Y-13259). The results were correlated with the outcome, with the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA)/cyclin (as a marker of cell proliferation) and with other well established prognostic factors for PTC (age, grading, extension and tumour size; Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1990, 19, 545-576). p21 staining in tumours of living patients was negative in 15, weakly positive (1+) in 10 and strongly positive (2+ or more) in 6 patients. In tumours from deceased patients, p21 staining was negative in 1, weakly positive in 2 and strongly positive in the remaining 11 patients (P <0.001, χ2). PCNA immunostaining was increased in 63.6% ( 7 11) of the tumours from deceased patients compared to 17.8% ( 5 28) of the tumours of living patients, but no direct correlation was found between p21 and PCNA expression. Among the other prognostic factors studied, only age ≥40 years was a significant predictor of poor outcome. The survival curve of patients with strongly positive p21 staining was similar to that of patients aged ≥40 years at the time of diagnosis. The combination of p21 ≥ 2+ and age ≥40 was superior to age alone (P <0.05) as a prognostic indicator of poor outcome. In conclusion, our results indicate that the p21 product of the ras (proto)oncogene is differently expressed in PTC, in relation to the degree of aggressiveness. Regardless of the pathogenetic role of the ras oncogene in thyroid tumorigenesis, our data indicate that the expression of the p21 ras protein may be regarded as a prognostic indicator in PTC. Furthermore, overexpression of p21 ras protein is associated with patients in the older age groups, and might contribute to the poor prognosis of elderly patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research