Embryonic Stem Cells Markers SOX2, OCT4 and Nanog Expression and Their Correlations with Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition in Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
Expression of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) markers (SOX2, OCT4, Nanog and Nestin) is crucial for progression of various human malignancies. The purpose of this study was to investigate the expression and prognostic impact of these molecules in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. In the present study, we found that the expression levels of SOX2, OCT4 and Nanog were highly expressed in NPC compared with the non-tumorous tissues. Furthermore, these proteins correlated significantly with several clinicalpathological factors and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-associated indicators (E-cadherin/N-cadherin and Snail). In multivariate analyses, high expression of OCT4 (P = 0.013) and Nanog (P = 0.040), but not that of SOX2, was associated with worse survival and had strongly independent prognostic effects. Of note, OCT4 and Nanog were more frequently located at the invasive front of tumors, and correlated significantly with various aggressive behaviors including T classification, N classification, M classification and clinical stage. Furthermore, patients with co-expression of OCT4 and Nanog in the invasive front had significantly worse survival (P = 0.005). Interestingly, at the invasive front, these molecules correlated significantly with Nestin expression in endothelial cells (P<0.001). These findings provide evidence that ESCs biomarkers OCT4 and Nanog serves as independent prognostic factors for NPC. Additionally, cancer cells in the invasive front of NPC acquiring ESCs-like features should be maintained by vascular niches.