Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) includes both morphological and functional cellular heterogeneity, as would be expected if it arose from dysregulated stem or progenitor cells as opposed to the simple clonal expansion of a mutated cell; however, stemness molecule expression levels and distribution in HNSCC remain unclear. To clarify this, stemness molecule expressions were determined in HNSCC, as well as their properties and prognosis. Two proto-oncogenic chromatin regulators, Bmi-1 and high-mobility-group A2 (Hmga2), were identified in 12 pair cases of HNSCC tumor regions by comparison with their non-cancerous background tissues using cDNA microarray. Both Bmi-1 and Hmga2 are known to promote stem cell self-renewal by negatively regulating the expressions of Ink4a and Arf tumor suppressors. Despite similar targets, Bmi-1 protein was expressed in an early cancerous region and HMGA2 protein was expressed in a region showing more progression. Similarly, Bmi1 expression had no significance with regard to overall survival (P=0.67), whereas HMGA2 expression was associated with decreased overall survival (P=0.05). Quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analyses also correlated with protein levels. These findings suggest that Bmi-1 is an early detection marker to distinguish cancerous from non-cancerous regions, whereas HMGA2 is presumed to be a tumor prognosis marker. Among our HNSCC analyses, these stemness molecules expressed fewer primitive rare cells in the tumor than all other cells in the tumor. HNSCC cells with high expression of stemness molecules partly behave like stem cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology