AIM: To document the frequency and extent of p53 gene product expression in paraffin sections of resected non-small cell carcinoma of the lung and in cytological preparations of the same tumours; to determine the effect of microwave antigen retrieval on antigen detection. METHODS: Representative paraffin sections of 50 non-small cell carcinomas were stained with an antibody to p53 gene product (DO-7) both with and without prior microwave antigen retrieval. Cytoblocks and cell smears obtained from 19 cases were similarly stained. RESULTS: Using a histochemical scoring system (0-300) which takes into account staining intensity and extent, 78% (n = 39) of microwave pretreated paraffin sections and 52% (n = 26) of non-pretreated sections scored between 5 and 300; p = 0.001; 56% (n = 28) of microwave pretreated sections and only 2% (n = 1) of non-pretreated sections scored between 100 and 300 (p = 0.0001); 75% of direct smears of tumours and 80% of cytoblocks stained similarly to the paraffin sections of the resected specimens. No smears or cytoblocks stained positively when the sections of the resected specimen were negative. CONCLUSIONS: As up to 78% of non-small cell lung carcinomas overexpress p53 gene product, this may prove to be a valuable diagnostic method in biopsy or cytological material when the morphological diagnosis is uncertain. Microwave antigen retrieval is effective on formalin fixed tissue.
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