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Expression of p64c-myc and neuroendocrine properties define three subclasses of small cell lung cancer.
G Bepler; H Bading; B Heimann; P Kiefer; K Havemann; K Moelling (Profiled Author: Gerold Bepler)
Philipps University Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Marburg, Federal Republic of Germany.
Twelve human small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines and 6 non-SCLC cell lines were analysed with respect to expression of the c-myc, c-myb, and c-raf1 protooncogenes at the protein level. Analysis of p64c-myc protein expression in 12 SCLC cell lines resulted in the observation that it is present at high levels not only in cells with low, but also in those with moderate neuroendocrine differentiation. Neuroendocrine differentiation was based on parameters such as growth rate, colony formation, L-Dopa decarboxylase (DDC) activity, bombesin, and neurotensin described before. Surprisingly, in two cell lines with low neuroendocrine differentiation but without c-myc protein expression (SCLC-86M1 and NCI-H526) p75c-myb expression was observed which may therefore be able to substitute for the p64c-myc protein. Analysis of p74c-raf1 expression did not result in correlation with any growth or differentiation parameter since it was expressed at low levels in 11 out of 12 cases. We conclude that SCLC in vitro can be classified in three rather than two previously defined subclasses. In addition to the classic subclass with slow growth, high neuroendocrine differentiation, and absent or very low p64c-myc expression and the variant subclass with fast growth, absent to very low neuroendocrine differentiation, and high p64c-myc expression, we suggest a third subclass designated as transitional with moderate growth, moderate neuroendocrine differentiation, and high p64c-myc expression. Data on a small number of non-SCLC cell lines tested showed that high levels of p64c-myc correlate with high in vitro growth rates. This indicates that high p64c-myc levels may be associated with high proliferative activity, and lack of differentiation in lung cancer in general. The p74c-raf1 protein was found in all non-SCLC cell lines. Whether this classification of SCLC cell lines is applicable to SCLC in vivo remains to be determined.
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