Objectives. Radiation therapy is definitive treatment for localized prostate cancer. It causes cellular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage, which, if irreparable, results in apoptosis or programmed cell death. Overexpression of mutant p53 and/or bcl-2 proteins prolongs cell survival despite exposure to damaging agents. We examined whether abnormal expression of either gene could help to explain radiation therapy failures in prostate cancer. Methods. Archival tissue from patients who had failed radiation therapy as treatment for prostate cancer was obtained before and after treatment. These cancer samples were examined immunohistochemically for accumulation of p53 and bcl-2 proteins. Comparison was made with specimens from patients who had no evidence of recurrent or persistent disease at least 3 years following radiation therapy. Results. High rates of p53 immunopositivity were found in the prostate tissue from all groups studied. More patients who had failed radiation therapy were found to have bcl-2 immunopositive specimens than were those without evidence for recurrent disease (41% preradiation and 61% postradiation versus 8%, P <0.05). More patients who failed radiation therapy had both p53 and bcl-2 immunopositive prostate tissue than did those who were treated successfully (32% preradiation and 48% postradiation versus 8%). Conclusions. bcl-2 immunopositivity, with or without concomitant detection of p53, was found in significantly more cancers of patients who failed radiation therapy. Positive staining for bcl-2 may serve as a marker for determining the radiation sensitivity of a tumor and thus may help to guide treatment options. It is also notable that a high proportion of the prostate cancers examined were immunopositive for p53.
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