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The human equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (hENT1) is the major means by which gemcitabine enters human cells; recent evidence exists that hENT1 is expressed in carcinoma of the ampulla of Vater and that it should be considered as a molecular prognostic marker for patients with resected ampullary cancer. Aim of the present study is to evaluate the variations of hENT1 expression in ampullary carcinomas and to correlate such variations with histological subtypes and clinicopathological parameters. Forty-one ampullary carcinomas were histologically classified into intestinal, pancreaticobiliary and unusual types. hENT1 and Ki67 expression were evaluated by immunohistochemistry, and apoptotic cells were identified by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate biotin nick end labelling (TUNEL) method. hENT1 overexpression was detected in 63.4% ampullary carcinomas. A significant difference in terms of hENT1 and Ki67 expression was found between intestinal vs. pancreaticobiliary types (P=0.03 and P=0.009 respectively). Moreover, a significant statistical positive correlation was found between apoptotic and proliferative Index (P=0.036), while no significant correlation was found between hENT1 and apoptosis. Our results on hENT1 expression suggest that classification of ampullary carcinoma by morphological subtypes may represent an additional tool in prospective clinical trials aimed at examining treatment efficacy; in addition, data obtained from Ki67 and TUNEL suggest a key role of hENT1 in tumour growth of ampullary carcinoma.
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