AIMS--To investigate the effects of fixation on the immunohistochemical demonstration of c-erbB-2 oncoprotein using paraffin wax and cryostat sections; to compare c-erbB-2 expression in non-neoplastic and neoplastic gastric tissues. METHODS--Adjacent blocks of tumour and non-neoplastic tissue from four gastrectomy specimens were put into a panel of 10 fixatives including acetone, B5, Bouin's fluid, Carnoy's fluid, buffered formalin, formol dichromate, zinc formalin, 4% paraformaldehyde, periodate-lysine-paraformaldehyde (PLP) and periodate-lysine-paraformaldehyde-dichromate (PLPD) before embedding in paraffin wax for sectioning. Similar tissue blocks were snap frozen and cryostat sections were postfixed in these fixatives, either alone or in combination, before immunostaining. RESULTS--In paraffin wax embedded sections the best fixative was PLP, and in frozen tissues the best results were obtained after fixation of cryostat sections in buffered formalin followed by cold methanol and acetone. Applying these fixatives to samples from a further 16 gastrectomy specimens, strong membrane staining of c-erbB-2 protein was found in the tumour in eight of 16 cases (50%) using paraffin wax sections, and staining was stronger in the better differentiated carcinomas. For frozen tissues, positive membrane staining was found in all gastric adenocarcinomas, but differential staining intensity associated with tumour differentiation could not be detected. CONCLUSIONS--These results indicate that fixation and paraffin wax embedding affect the results of immunohistochemical demonstration of c-erbB-2 in gastric cancer. The choice of fixative is critical in the demonstration and evaluation of c-erbB-2 protein expression by immunohistochemistry in gastric carcinomas. Staining results also vary depending on whether frozen or paraffin wax embedded tissues are studied.
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