Tumors may escape a host's immune response by means of various mechanisms. The Fas (CD95/APO-1)/Fas ligand (FasL) system is one of the major apoptotic pathways. Recently, it has been reported that tumor cells can express FasL, induce apoptosis in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, and thus can escape host immune surveillance. In gastric carcinoma, tumor progression by way of the lymphatics is often seen, and lymph node metastasis is a critical factor influencing the recurrence of cancer and its prognosis. We, therefore, investigated the relationship between the expression of FasL and the lymphatic spread of gastric carcinoma. FasL-expression was examined by an immunohistochemical method using 100 surgically resected gastric carcinomas and 55 metastatic lymph nodes. Apoptotic cells among tumor infiltrating T lymphocytes were detected by T lymphocyte staining and the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) method in a series of sections of metastatic lymph nodes. FasL-expression was detected in 86% of primary lesions and 71% of metastatic lymph nodes. In cases with high levels of FasL-expression, the observed expression of lymph node metastases was significant (p=0.047). Moreover, FasL-positive cases with both primary lesions and metastatic lymph nodes showed also distant lymph node metastasis beyond the regional lymph nodes (p=0.030). Apoptosis among tumor infiltrating T lymphocytes was more frequently seen in FasL-positive lesions (p=0.057). Furthermore, patients with FasL-negative primary lesions tended to exhibit longer survival times than patients with FasL-positive primary lesions. The results suggest tumor escape through the lymphatic pathway via FasL-expression in gastric carcinomas.
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