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Cancer Res. 1998 Jan 15;58(2):342-7.

Tumor cell-associated hyaluronan as an unfavorable prognostic factor in colorectal cancer.

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Department of Pathology, University of Kuopio, Finland.


Hyaluronan (HA) is a linear high molecular weight extracellular polysaccharide. It is thought to be involved in mitosis and the enhancement of wound healing, tumor invasion, and metastasis. Because its clinical relevance in cancer has not been explored, we scored HA in colorectal adenocarcinoma and studied its relationship with patient survival. A specific probe prepared from cartilage proteoglycan aggregates was used to stain paraffin-embedded tumor samples from 202 colorectal adenocarcinoma patients treated in Kuopio University Hospital and followed up for a mean of 14 years. The hypothesis that the percentage of HA-positive carcinoma cells (HA%) and HA intensity in cancer cells correlated with survival was tested with the log-rank test, hazard ratios, and their confidence intervals. Ninety-three % of tumors had at least a proportion of carcinoma cells positive for HA. HA intensity in tumor epithelium was stronger in Dukes' stages C and D tumors and in high-grade tumors. The cancer-related survival rate was lower among patients with strong HA intensity in tumor epithelium (P < 0.001) and high HA% (P < 0.001). Recurrence-free survival was also shorter in patients with an intense signal for HA (P = 0.001) and high HA% in tumor epithelium (P = 0.04). HA intensity in tumor epithelium independently predicted survival and recurrence-free survival (Cox's analysis). We conclude that a high proportion of HA-positive cancer cells and high intensity of the HA-signal predicts a poor survival rate. The abnormal expression of HA in the neoplastic colon epithelial cells is suggested to provide a distinct advantage for invasive growth and metastasis.

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