Background Proliferation and apoptosis of liver cancer cells are closely related phenomena. We investigated the correlation between overexpression of Bcl-xL, an anti-apoptosis-related protein of the Bcl-2 family, and the clinical course of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Methods Specimens from 7 HCC patients were used for Western blotting and immunoelectron microscopy tests. Samples from 33 HCC patients who had undergone hepatectomies were used for immunohistochemical staining. The degrees of expression of Bcl-xL and Ki-67, as an index of HCC mitosis severity, were each classified into 2 groups. Results With the use of Western blot analysis, enhanced immunoreactivity of Bcl-xL was found in cancerous specimens. Bcl-xL overexpression was found in cancer specimens in 21 of 33 patients (63.6%). The overall survival (P=.019) and disease-free survival (P=.030) rates of the group overexpressing Bcl-xL were definitely poorer. The Ki-67 higher labeling index LI > 10) group had a poorer survival rate (P=.016). There were significant correlations between Bcl-xL and overall survival and disease-free survival. Multivariate analyses revealed that Bcl-xL, tumor size, histologic portal invasion, and histologic metastatic foci were independent prognostic factors for overall survival and disease-free survival. Conclusions These results showed Bcl-xL in HCC specimens, suggesting that Bcl-xL was a significant prognostic factor for disease progression in human HCC.
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