Diagnosis of gastric adenocarcinoma using small biopsy samples is occasionally difficult. Various markers have been employed for improving the diagnostic accuracy, but there remains room for improvement. A total of 129 endoscopically biopsied samples were studied, consisting of 104 intramucosal tubular adenocarcinomas, 24 non-cancerous lesions and one cancer sample originally suspected of non-cancer but revised as cancer after immunostaining. We evaluated the association between histopathology and immunohistochemical expression of MUC1, HER2, p53, CEA, E-cadherin, β-catenin and claudin-18. Regarding β-catenin and claudin-18, not only membranous expression (β-catenin(M) and claudin-18(M)) but also nuclear expression (β-catenin(N) and claudin-18(N)) were analyzed. When subtyped with mucin core protein expression, the gastric-type cancers dominantly expressed claudin-18(M), while claudin-18(N) was significantly encountered in intestinal- and mixed-types. Expression of MUC1 (P = 0.0010), HER2 (P = 0.0173), p53 (P = 0.0002), CEA (P = 0.0019) and claudin-18(N) (P < 0.0001) revealed significant correlation with gastric cancers. Negative correlation of claudin-18(M) (P = 0.0125) was also noted. MUC1 and p53 were negative in non-cancer lesions. The non-cancer group exceptionally expressed HER2 and β-catenin(N). Membranous expression of E-cadherin was consistent in both groups. Logistic regression analysis showed that MUC1 (P = 0.0086), p53 (P = 0.0031), claudin-18(M) (P = 0.0158) and claudin-18(N) (P = 0.0190) were independently associated with gastric cancers. Nuclear expression of claudin-18 should be the novel diagnostic marker for gastric cancer.
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