Expression levels of the nerve growth factor receptors TrkA and p75 in effusions and solid tumors of serous ovarian carcinoma patients

B Davidson, P Lazarovici, A Ezersky, J M Nesland, A Berner, B Risberg, C G Tropé, G B Kristensen, M Goscinski, G van de Putte, R Reich
Clinical Cancer Research 2001, 7 (11): 3457-64

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to analyze the expression of the high- and low-affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptors TrkA and p75 in effusions and in primary and metastatic tumors of serous ovarian carcinoma patients, as well as to evaluate their association with clinicopathological parameters and disease outcome.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: Sections from 77 malignant effusions and 78 primary and metastatic lesions were evaluated for protein expression of TrkA and p75 using immunohistochemistry (IHC). Expression of the phosphorylated form of TrkA (p-TrkA) was evaluated in 75 effusions using IHC. TrkA and p75 mRNA expression was studied in 44 effusions using reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR).

RESULTS: TrkA protein membrane expression was detected in carcinoma cells in 30 of 77 (39%) effusions and 64 of 78 (82%) solid tumors. The decrease in TrkA expression in effusions approached, but did not reach, statistical significance when only corresponding lesions were analyzed (P = 0.06 in the comparison of effusions and primary tumors, P = 0.09 for effusions and metastases). Conversely, p75 protein membrane expression was more common in effusions, which was detected in 16 of 77 (21%) effusions as compared with 6 of 78 (8%) solid tumors (P > 0.05 in analysis of corresponding lesions). Expression of p-TrkA in carcinoma cells was limited to 5 of 75 effusions. Interestingly, 11 of 16 p75-positive effusions were also immunoreactive for the antibody against TrkA (P = 0.001), suggesting NGF activation using two signaling pathways. TrkA and p75 protein expression in tumor cells was similar in pleural and peritoneal effusions (P > 0.05). Using reverse transcription-PCR, TrkA mRNA was detected in 2 of 45 effusions, whereas p75 mRNA was present in 3 of 45 specimens. TrkA and p75 showed no association with tumor grade, Fédération Internationale des Gynaecologistes et Obstetristes stage, chemotherapy status, the extent of residual disease, or survival (P > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: TrkA and p75 are both expressed in advanced-stage ovarian carcinoma, but whereas p75 expression is elevated in effusions, TrkA shows an opposite trend. The different expression of NGF receptors in effusions may relate to the different microenvironment and growth factor availability in body cavities, as also supported by the infrequent activation of TrkA in effusions. The similar expression of TrkA and p75 in carcinoma cells in pleural and peritoneal effusions provides further evidence for our hypothesis that there are few, if any, phenotypic differences between ovarian carcinoma cells at these two sites. TrkA and p75 expression in effusions does not appear to be a predictor of disease outcome in advanced-stage serous ovarian carcinoma.

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