Clinicopathological features and prognostic implications of ASCL1 expression in surgically resected small cell lung cancer

Lung Cancer

Thorac Cancer. 2020 Nov 15. doi: 10.1111/1759-7714.13705. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is one of the most aggressive lung cancers. Treatment of SCLC has remained unchanged during the past decades. Preclinical studies have revealed ASCL1 as a transcription regulator in the neuroendocrine (NE) differentiation and carcinogenesis of SCLC. However, there are few studies on correlation of ASCL1 expression and clinicopathological factors in resected SCLCs. Here, we aimed to analyze the ASCL1 expression of SCLC and investigate its associations with clinicopathological factors and survival.

METHODS: A total of 247 surgically resected pure SCLC specimens were included in this retrospective study, all of which were processed using tissue microarrays for immunohistochemistry analysis of ASCL1. A total of 48 of 247 cases were tested by NanoString for mRNA expression analysis on 50 SCLC related genes. Statistical analysis was performed using R studio and SPSS software.

RESULTS: NE scores of 48 pure SCLC specimens were calculated by analyzing 50 preselected genes. A significant correlation between NE score with both ASCL1 mRNA expression and ASCL1 protein expression were observed. For the entire cohort of 247 patients, ASCL1 was highly expressed in 42.5% of pure SCLC patients according to IHC results. Significant differences were observed between ASCL1 high and low expression groups in variables including staging, lymph node metastasis, nerve invasion and overall survival.

CONCLUSIONS: In limited staged pure SCLC, ASCL1 expression was positively correlated with NE signature, pTNM stage, nerve invasion and OS. ASCL1 may therefore serve as a potential biomarker to predict prognosis as well as in the selection of patients for therapies targeting ASCL1-regulated downstream molecules.