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Hypoxic tumors are refractory to radiation and chemotherapy. High expression of biomarkers related to hypoxia in head and neck cancer is associated with a poorer prognosis. The present study aimed to evaluate the clinicopathological significance of erythropoietin receptor (EPOR) expression in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).
The study included 256 patients who underwent primary surgical resection between October 1996 and August 2005 for treatment of OSCC without previous radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Clinicopathological information including gender, age, T classification, N classification, and TNM stage was obtained from clinical records and pathology reports. The mRNA and protein expression levels of EPOR in OSCC specimens were evaluated by Q-RT-PCR, Western blotting and immunohistochemistry assays.
We found that EPOR were overexpressed in OSCC tissues. The study included 17 women and 239 men with an average age of 50.9years (range, 26–87years). The mean follow-up period was 67months (range, 2–171months). High EPOR expression was significantly correlated with advanced T classification (p<0.001), advanced TNM stage (p<0.001), and positive N classification (p=0.001). Furthermore, the univariate analysis revealed that patients with high tumor EPOR expression had a lower 5-year overall survival rate (p=0.0011) and 5-year disease-specific survival rate (p=0.0017) than patients who had low tumor levels of EPOR. However, the multivariate analysis using Cox’s regression model revealed that only the T and N classifications were independent prognostic factors for the 5-year overall survival and 5-year disease-specific survival rates.
High EPOR expression in OSCC is associated with an aggressive tumor behavior and poorer prognosis in the univariate analysis among patients with OSCC. Thus, EPOR expression may serve as a treatment target for OSCC in the future.