The mechanism of drug resistance of gastric cancer cells has rarely been investigated. We specifically examine the magnitude and the biologic significance of multidrug resistance-1 (MDR-1) expression in human gastric cancer. All patients had previously been treated in prospective clinical trials for advanced gastric cancer in our institution. Patients with adequate prechemotherapy gastric cancer tissues for immunohistochemical studies by a C219 monoclonal antibody were selected for the determination of the expression rate of MDR-1. The results were designated as negative or positive by the independent interpretation of two pathologists. A subgroup of patients who had been treated with doxorubicin- or etoposide-containing regimens were selected for further correlation with drug sensitivity. Between 1990 and 1996, a total of 60 patients, 38 men and 22 women with a median age of 55 years, were studied. Eight (13.3%; 95% confidence interval, 6%-25%) of them had MDR-1 expression. None of the pertinent clinicopathologic features, including the histopathologic types of the tumors and the extent of the diseases, correlated with the expression of MDR-1. Among the 30 patients who had received doxorubicin- or etoposide-containing combination chemotherapy, 3 (10%; 95% confidence interval, 3%-27%) were designated positive for MDR-1 expression. None of the 3 patients responded to chemotherapy, whereas 19 (70.4%) of the 27 patients who had not expressed MDR-1 did respond (p = 0.041 by Fisher's exact test). We conclude that the expression of MDR-1 in gastric cancer is relatively low. Its expression, however, is clinically relevant and is useful in predicting the chemoresistance of patients with gastric cancer receiving doxorubicin- or etoposide-containing combination chemotherapy.
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