Pathophysiology of tumor progression in human gallbladder: Flow cytometry, CEA, and CA 19-9 levels in bile and serum in different stages of gallbladder disease
Gallbladder epithelium is unique among the gastrointestinal cell types because proteins and protein levels in the fluid bathing the luminal side of the cells (bile) are different from and can be compared with those in the fluid bathing the basal side (serum). To help identify cellular changes that occur during the development of gallbladder cancer, we obtained gallbladder tissue, serum, and bile specimens from 20 patients with invasive adenocarcinoma of the gallbladder, three with high-grade dysplasia (carcinoma in situ), six with low-grade dysplasia, 12 with hyperplasia, and 10 with acute or chronic cholecystitis. We obtained serum samples from 40 patients with invasive adenocarcinoma and bile samples from 29 of these patients; serum samples from three with high-grade dysplasia and bile specimens from two of these; serum and bile samples from five with low-grade dysplasia; serum or bile samples from 126 with metaplasia, hyperplasia, or cholecystitis, including serum samples from 121 and bile samples from 110; and serum and bile samples from eight with normal biliary tracts. The study was conducted in Mexico City, Mexico, and La Paz, Bolivia. We performed flow cytometric DNA analysis on gallbladder tissue specimens and measured levels of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9 antigen in the serum and bile specimens. Analysis of the cell cycle compartments by flow cytometry revealed marked variations of the proliferation index for the different disease states (P<.0001). The proliferation index increased with progression from cholecystitis to invasive adenocarcinoma. Of the bile and serum measurements, only serum CA 19-9 values were correlated with flow cytometry measurements (r = ?.49, P = .005). Overall, the serum and bile measurements were in agreement (P < .01). However, with the exception of the correlations among serum measurements for the patients with invasive adenocarcinoma, most of the correlations could be explained by differences in the disease state. In particular, the progression from normal tissue to invasive adenocarcinoma involved no change in bile CA 19-9 level and only a slight change in bile CEA level but much larger changes in serum CEA and CA 19-9 levels. It appears that the progression from normal tissue to invasive adenocarcinoma results in increased production of these antigens and often in loss of cell polarity as well, i.e., inability to prevent leakage of the antigens into the serum.