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Baumeister, Philipp; Hollmann, Alessandra; Kitz, Julia; Afthonidou, Artemis; Simon, Florian; Shakhtour, Julius; Mack, Brigitte; Kranz, Gisela; Libl, Darko; Leu, Martin; Schirmer, Markus A.; Canis, Martin; Belka, Claus; Zitzelsberger, Horst; Ganswindt, Ute; Hess, Julia; Jakob, Mark; Unger, Kristian; Gires, Olivier (2018): High Expression of EpCAM and Sox2 is a Positive Prognosticator of Clinical Outcome for Head and Neck Carcinoma. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 8, 14582
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Abstract

Locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) have limited prognosis due to frequent treatment failure. Currently, TNM-classification and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection are the sole clinical prognosticators of outcome. Tumor heterogeneity and stemness based on epithelial-mesenchymal-transition reportedly associate with therapy resistance. The capacity of epithelial marker EpCAM (EpEX), stemness regulator Sox2 and mesenchymal marker vimentin to predict clinical outcome of HSNCC patients was assessed upon immunohistochemistry staining in two cohorts of HNSCC patients treated with surgery and adjuvant radio (chemo) therapy (n = 94) and primary radio (chemo) therapy (n = 94), respectively. Prognostic values with respect to overall, disease-free and disease-specific survival were assessed in uni- and multivariate cox proportional hazard models to generate integrated risk scores. EpEX, Sox2 and vimentin displayed substantial inter- and intratumoral heterogeneity. EpEX(high) and Sox2(hi)(gh )predicted improved clinical outcome in the discovery cohort and in the HPV-negative sub-cohort. EpEX(high) and Sox2(high) were confirmed as prognosticators of clinical outcome in the validation cohort treated with definitive radio(chemo)therapy. Importantly, EpEX(high) identified patients with improved survival within the HPV-negative subgroup of the validation cohort. Hence, Sox2(high) and particularly EpEX(high) have potential as tools to predict clinical performance of HNSCC patients, foremost HPV-negative cases, in the frame of molecular-guided treatment decision-making.