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BMC Cancer. 2009 Jun 29;9:213. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-9-213.

CXCR4 expression on circulating pan-cytokeratin positive cells is associated with survival in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

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Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, City of Hope and Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, CA, USA.



The CXC chemokine, CXCL12, and its receptor, CXCR4 promote metastases of a variety of solid tumors, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The expression of CXCR4 on tumor cells may represent a critical biomarker for their propensity to metastasize. This study was performed to evaluate the hypothesis that co-expression of pan-cytokeratin and CXCR4 may be a prognostic marker for patients with advanced NSCLC.


We evaluated CXCR4 levels on circulating pan-cytokeratin positive cells from patients with NSCLC. NSCLC tumor and metastases were also assessed for the presence of CXCR4.


Pan-cytokeratin positive cells were increased in the circulation of patients with NSCLC, as compared to normal control subjects. Patients with pan-cytokeratin +/CXCR4+ = 2,500 cells/ml had a significant improvement in median survival when compared with patients with pan-cytokeratin +/CXCR4+ >2,500 cells/ml (not achieved versus 14 weeks). CXCR4 expression was found on NSCLC tumors and at sites of tumor metastasis.


This study suggests that CXCR4 may be a prognostic marker in NSCLC, and provides hypothesis-generating results, which may be important in determining metastatic potential. In future studies, we will prospectively evaluate the prognostic significance of pan-cytokeratin/CXCR4+ cells, and determine the mechanisms involved in the regulation of CXCR4 expression on tumor cells in a larger patient population.

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