Heterogeneity of chemosensitivity of esophageal and gastric carcinoma

Stuart J. Mercer, Shaw S. Somers, Louise A. Knight, Pauline A. Whitehouse, Sanjay Sharma, Federica Di Nicolantonio, Sharon Glaysher, Simon Toh, Ian A. Cree

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Esophageal and gastric cancer have a poor prognosis, and chemotherapy is rarely of long-term benefit. This may be related in part to heterogeneity of chemosensitivity and to constitutive resistance to individual cytotoxic drugs. This study aimed to demonstrate the degree of heterogeneity of chemosensitivity between tumors. We have examined the heterogeneity of chemosensitivity in esophageal and gastric cancer specimens (n=85) using an ex vivo ATP-based chemosensitivity assay (ATP-TCA). A variety of chemotherapeutic agents were tested. Sixty-four specimens were endoscopic biopsy samples; the remainder were from resection specimens. Cells were obtained from 62 specimens (73%). Eight assays were infected due to contamination/infection of the biopsy material, giving an evaluability rate of 87%. Analysis of the data showed considerable heterogeneity of chemosensitivity. The most active single agents identified by the assay were mitomycin C (56% sensitivity) and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU; 42% sensitivity). Exposure of tumor cells to combinations of drugs showed ECF (epirubicin, cisplatin, 5-FU) and mitomycin C+5-FU to be moderately active regimens. Other experimental drug combinations showed greater activity. There is a marked heterogeneity of chemosensitivity in esophageal and gastric cancers. The degree of heterogeneity observed suggests that the ATP-TCA could be used to individualize chemotherapy by selecting agents for particular patients. This approach provides the rationale for a trial of ATP-TCA-directed therapy to determine whether individualization of chemotherapy might improve patient response and survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-403
Number of pages7
JournalAnti-Cancer Drugs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


  • Chemosensitivity
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Luciferase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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