Matthias, Christoph; Mack, Brigitte; Berghaus, Alexander; Gires, Olivier: Keratin 8 expression in head and neck epithelia. In: BMC Cancer 2008, 8:267




Background: The intermediate filament forming protein keratin 8 (K8) is a tumour-associated antigen, which was shown to be over-expressed in a variety of malignancies. Here, we present a study of K8 expression in squamous epithelia of the head and neck area, including normal mucosa, hyperplastic and dysplastic leukoplakia, carcinomas of different sub-localisations, and lymph node metastases. Methods: K8 expression was assessed upon immunohistochemistry with specific antibodies in cryosections of primary tumours of the head and neck area. Results: K8 expression was characteristic of transformed tissue and marked early stages of disease, i.e. dysplastic oral leukoplakia, but not normal or hyperplastic epithelium. With the exception of carcinomas of the larynx and the tongue, K8 expression also strictly differentiated carcinomas from normal epithelium of the same origin. Furthermore, K8(high) was characteristic of cells, which had detached from the sites of primary tumours and had been invading the surrounding tissue at the time point of surgery. Conclusion: K8 is an excellent marker for head and neck malignancies, which allows for early detection as well as for visualisation of potentially disseminating tumour cells in vivo.