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Background: MUC1 is a transmembrane mucin that plays an important role in tumor progression. Many clinical studies have suggested that the expression pattern of MUC1 core protein can be a useful prognostic marker in various malignancies, but the prognostic significance in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) remains uncertain. We performed a study to assess clinical significance, especially prognostic impact, of MUC1 expression in NSCLC.

Methods: A total of 62 patients with completely resected pathologic stage I to IIIA NSCLC were retrospectively reviewed. Histologic sections cut from primary tumors were immunohistochemically stained with an anti-MUC1 monoclonal antibody (CA15-3, clone DF3), which recognizes unglycosylated epitope of MUC1 core protein. According to MUC1 expression pattern, each patient was classified into the high-grade polarized expression (HP), the low-grade polarized expression (LP), or the depolarized expression (D) group.

Results: Twenty-four (38.7%), 21 (33.9%), and 17 (27.4%) patients were classified into the HP group, the LP group, and the D group, respectively. HP was exclusively seen in adenocarcinoma, mostly in well-differentiated adenocarcinoma. D was correlated with progressive stage and lymph node metastasis. Postoperative survival of the D group seemed to be poorer than that of the HP group for all NSCLC patients, and the difference was enhanced in adenocarcinoma patients.

Conclusion: A novel classification of MUC1 expression pattern (HP, LP, and D) was correlated with tumor differentiation and postoperative survival in NSCLC, especially in lung adenocarcinoma.

(C) 2006International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer