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Cancer Lett. 1998 Aug 14;130(1-2):49-56.

Cathepsin D in tissue and serum of patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

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Department of Radiotherapy, Institute of Oncology, Ljubljana, Slovenia.


Aspartic proteinase cathepsin D (CD) is believed to be associated with proteolytic processes leading to local invasion and seeding of tumour cells. To estimate a potential prognostic value of cathepsin D in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, its total concentration was measured immunoradiometrically (ELSA-CATH-D kit, CIS bio international) in cytosols of tumour and adjacent normal tissue samples from 111 patients; in 42/111 patients, the CD concentration was determined in serum samples obtained at diagnosis (serum no. 1) and after the therapy (serum no. 2) from each of these patients. Sera of 15 healthy volunteers served as controls. A significantly elevated concentration of CD was measured in tumour cytosols as compared to normal tissue cytosols (31.1 versus 12.6 pmol/mgp, P < 0.0001) and in cytosols of normal laryngeal tissue than of the oral cavity or pharynx (13.3 versus 11.2 pmol/mgp, P = 0.03). The higher CD tumour concentration correlated with the age of the patients (< or =60 versus >60 years, 28.8 versus 32.8 pmol/mgp, P = 0.045) and histopathological tumour grade (G1+2 versus G3, 32.6 versus 24.4 pmol/mgp, P = 0.02). In serum samples, a lower concentration of CD was measured in the control group than in the patients (3.6 versus 4.1 pmol/mls, P = 0.045) and in serum no. 1 than in serum no. 2 (4.1 versus 5.1 pmol/ mls. P = 0.05). The CD concentration in sera obtained at diagnosis was stage-dependent (S(I-III) versus S(IV), 3.9 versus 4.7 pmol/ mls. P = 0.09); there was a trend towards lower CD concentrations with an increasing time delay in serum no. 2 sampling (Rs = -0.20, P = 0.21). No correlation was observed between cytosolic and serum concentrations of CD. We conclude that our results confirm a specific role of CD in the process of invasion and metastasis of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, which might also be of prognostic value in this particular cancer type.

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