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Leu, Martin; Kitz, J.; Pilavakis, Y.; Hakroush, S.; Wolff, H. A.; Canis, M.; Rieken, S. and Schirmer, M. A. (2021): Monocarboxylate transporter-1 (MCT1) protein expression in head and neck cancer affects clinical outcome. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 11, No. 1, 4578

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Treatment of locally advanced, unresectable head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) often yields only modest results with radiochemotherapy (RCT) as standard of care. Prognostic features related to outcome upon RCT might be highly valuable to improve treatment. Monocarboxylate transporters-1 and -4 (MCT1/MCT4) were evaluated as potential biomarkers. A cohort of HNSCC patients without signs for distant metastases was assessed eliciting 82 individuals eligible whereof 90% were diagnosed with locally advanced stage IV. Tumor specimens were stained for MCT1 and MCT4 in the cell membrane by immunohistochemistry. Obtained data were evaluated with respect to overall (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS). Protein expression of MCT1 and MCT4 in cell membrane was detected in 16% and 85% of the tumors, respectively. Expression of both transporters was not statistically different according to the human papilloma virus (HPV) status. Positive staining for MCT1 (n=13, negative in n=69) strongly worsened PFS with a hazard ratio (HR) of 3.1 (95%-confidence interval 1.6-5.7, p<0.001). OS was likewise affected with a HR of 3.8 (2.0-7.3, p<0.001). Multivariable Cox regression confirmed these findings. We propose MCT1 as a promising biomarker in HNSCC treated by primary RCT.

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