We studied 2 families of molecules whose role remains uncharacterized or obscure in the progress of renal cell carcinoma (RCC): galectins, a major class of glycoproteins, and the Thomsen-Friedenreich (T) antigen. We characterized the level of expression of galectin-1 and galectin-3 and their respective binding sites in a series of 74 RCCs. We also characterized the level of expression of laminin, a natural ligand for galectins. Finally, we characterized the level of T antigen expression and the T antigen binding sites. All levels of expression were quantitatively determined by using computer-assisted microscopy on immunohistochemically or glycohistochemically stained slides. A small concentration of galectin-1 binding sites or a large concentration heterogeneity of galectin-3 can be associated with unfavorable prognoses for patients with grade II or III RCCs. In contrast, T antigen and T antigen binding sites revealed no change across the 2 RCC groups that exhibited different clinical outcomes. We established discriminant scores that permitted a clear distinction between the 2 RCC groups analyzed. Modifications to the expression of galectin-1 and galectin-3, but not of T antigen, parallel an increase in RCC aggressiveness. Galectins represent a family of molecules with a meaningful role in RCC progression.
Dr Kiss is a senior research associate with the Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique, Brussels, Belgium.