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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Dec 15;13(24):7388-93.

Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha in clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

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Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha) plays an important role in tumoral adaptation to hypoxic conditions by serving as a transcription factor for several crucial proteins, including vascular endothelial growth factor and carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX). Here, we evaluated the significance of HIF-1 alpha in renal cell carcinoma (RCC).


Immunohistochemical analysis was done on a tissue microarray constructed from paraffin-embedded primary tumor specimens from 357 patients treated by nephrectomy for RCC. Nuclear expression was evaluated by a single pathologist who was blinded to outcome. The expression levels were associated with pathologic variables and survival.


HIF-1 alpha expression was greater in RCC than in benign tissue. Clear cell RCC showed the highest expression levels. In clear cell RCC, HIF-1 alpha was significantly correlated with markers of apoptosis (p21, p53), the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway (pAkt, p27), CXCR3, and proteins of the vascular endothelial growth factor family. HIF-1 alpha was correlated with CAIX and CAXII in localized, but not in metastatic RCC. HIF-1 alpha expression predicted outcome in metastatic patients: patients with high HIF-1 alpha expression (>35%) had significantly worse survival than patients with low expression (< or =35%); median survival, 13.5 versus 24.4 months, respectively (P = 0.005). Multivariate analysis retained HIF-1 alpha and CAIX expression as the strongest independent prognostic factors for patients with metastatic clear cell RCC.


HIF-1 alpha is an important independent prognostic factor for patients with metastatic clear cell RCC. Because HIF-1 alpha and CAIX are independently and differentially regulated in metastatic clear cell RCC, both tumor markers can be complementary in predicting prognosis.

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