Recent studies have reported increased podoplanin expression by cancer cells and stromal cells, but little is known about its expression and biological significance in adenocarcinoma of the lung. We examined podoplanin expression by both cancer cells and stromal cells in 177 consecutive lung adenocarcinoma cases and analyzed relations between podoplanin expression and both clinicopathological factors and outcome. Podoplanin expression was observed on the apical membrane of the cancer cells in only 9 of the 177 (5.1%) cases. By contrast, cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) were found to express podoplanin in 54 cases (30.5%). Podoplanin (+) CAFs were found only in invasive adenocarcinoma and none were found in noninvasive adenocarcinoma. Conventional prognostic factors were significantly correlated with podoplanin expression by CAFs. The univariate analyses and log-rank test showed that podoplanin expression was significantly associated with shorter survival time (p < 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively). We divided the cases into 3 groups according grade based on the proportion of CAFs expressing podoplanin [a grade 0 group (n = 123), a grade 1 group (n = 36) and a grade 2 group (n = 18)]. The result showed that conventional prognostic factors were significantly correlated with the grade of podoplanin expression by CAFs. Furthermore, the grade 2 group tended to have a shorter survival time than the grade 1 group (p = 0.092). The results of this study highlight the importance of podoplanin expression by CAFs and provide new insights into the biology of the cancer microenvironment in adenocarcinoma of the lung.
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