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Oncol Res. 2003;14(2):61-73.

Frequent alterations of Smad signaling in human head and neck squamous cell carcinomas: a tissue microarray analysis.

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  • 1Division of Medical Oncology, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.

Abstract

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) ranks as the sixth most frequent cancer worldwide. HNSCC cell lines are typically refractory to transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta)-mediated cell cycle arrest. A number of these cell lines carry inactivating mutations of the TGF-beta type II (TbetaR-II) receptor, and fail to phosphorylate receptor-associated Smads, Smad2 and Smad3. In addition, we identified several intragenic mutations of the TbetaR-I gene in a small series of metastatic HNSCC specimens, suggesting that disruptions of TGF-beta signaling might contribute to the development and progression of HNSCC. To test this idea, we have now embarked on a larger scale analysis of the patterns of expression and activation of Smads in 170 HNSCC specimens assembled in tissue microarrays. Smad2 protein was expressed by 99% (95% CI: 96-100%) of tumors. The activated form of Smad2, pSmad2, was expressed in 86% (95% CI: 80-91%) of HNSCC, indicating their ability to survive and proliferate in spite of the presence of bioactive TGF-beta within the tissue microenvironment. In the 24 remaining cases (14%; 95% CI: 9-20%), pSmad2 was not detected in the tumor cells, although it was expressed by surrounding stromal cells and capillaries. In addition, 38 tumors (22%; 95% CI: 16-29%) failed to express Smad4 protein. Thus, we found evidence of loss of TGF-beta/Smad signaling in approximately 15-20% of HNSCC specimens, which is consistent with the phenotype of established human SCC lines. Moreover, we found that these Smad signaling defects were associated with a greater tendency for metastatic spread and regional or distant recurrence of HNSCC. These results indicate that inactivation of TGF-beta/Smad signaling occurs frequently in HNSCC and might have an adverse effect on patient outcome.

PMID:
14649540
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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