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Oncotarget. 2016 Jul 12;7(28):43177-43187. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.9506.

Expression of the extracellular sulfatase SULF2 is associated with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

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Department of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA.
Department of Pathology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA.
Department of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC 20057, USA.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Cellular Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Sulfatase 2 (SULF2), an extracellular sulfatase that alters sulfation on heparan sulfate proteoglycans, is involved in the tumorigenesis and progression of several carcinomas. SULF2 expression has not been evaluated in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC). Here we report results of IHC of SULF2 expression in HNSCC tissue. SULF2 was detected in 57% of tumors (n = 40) with a significant increase in intensity and number of stained cells compared to adjacent cancer-free tissue (p-value < 0.01), increasing with cancer stage when comparing stages 1 and 2 to stages 3 and 4 (p-value 0.01). SULF2 was not detected in epithelial cells of cancer-free controls, and expression was independent of patient demographics, tumor location and etiological factors, smoking and HPV infection by p16 IHC analysis. Sandwich ELISA was performed on serum of HNSCC patients (n = 28) and controls (n = 35), and although SULF2 was detectable, no change was observed in HNSCC. Saliva, collected by mouthwash, from HNSCC patients (n = 8) and controls (n = 8) was also tested by ELISA in a preliminary investigation and an increase in SULF2 was observed in HNSCC (p-value 0.041). Overall, this study shows that SULF2 is increased in HNSCC independent of tissue location (oral cavity, oropharynx, larynx and hypopharynx), patient demographics and etiology. Although no change in SULF2 was detected in HNSCC serum, its detection in saliva makes it worthy of further investigation as a potential HNSCC biomarker.


biomarker; cancer progression; heparan sulfate proteoglycans; sulfation; tumorigenesis

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