Background. Molecular-targeted drugs are not available for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), which has a poor prognosis. We investigated the clinicopathological significance of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) expression and the utility of EpCAM as a potential therapeutic target. Methods. The relationship between EpCAM expression and clinicopathological factors was examined by immunohistochemistry in 74 patients with resectable ESCC. A total of ten ESCC cell lines were analyzed for EpCAM expression. The effects of EpCAM knockdown in TE4, TE10, and TE14 cells were examined with regard to cell proliferation and gene expression in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. The antitumor effect of catumaxomab in ESCC cell lines was examined. Results. EpCAM overexpression was associated with poor survival in ESCC patients (P = 0.026). Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that EpCAM overexpression was a significant and independent prognostic factor for surgically treated ESCC (P = 0.004). TE4 and TE10 cells showed high EpCAM expression, in contrast to TE14. EpCAM siRNA knockdown in TE4 and TE10 cells downregulated CCND1 and CCNE2 and suppressed cell proliferation. Low EpCAM expression reduced tumorigenesis; TE4 cells initiated tumorigenesis in seven of the ten mice injected, whereas shRNA knockdown resulted in smaller tumors in two of ten mice at 6 weeks after transplantation. Concentration- and time-dependent antitumor effects of catumaxomab were observed in TE4 and TE10 cells. Conclusions. EpCAM overexpression is an independent prognostic factor for surgically treated ESCC. EpCAM contributes to cell proliferation and tumorigenesis and may be a useful therapeutic target for ESCC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas