There is growing evidence implicating that neutrophil gelatinase–associated lipocalin (NGAL) plays a role in the development and progression of cancers. However, the effect of NGAL in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) has not been clearly elucidated. In this study, we investigated the role of NGAL in the tumorigenesis and progression of CRC and evaluated the clinical value of NGAL expression.
We examined NGAL expression in 526 colorectal tissue samples, including 53 sets of matched specimens (histologically normal mucosa, adenomas, and carcinomas) using immunohistochemical analysis. In CRCs, correlations between NGAL expression and clinicopathologic parameters were analyzed, and survival analysis was conducted. The role of NGAL was further tested using mouse xenograft models.
NGAL expression was elevated during the colorectal adenoma–carcinoma sequence both among the 526 cases (rs = 0.66, P < 0.001) and in the 53 sets of matched specimens (rs = 0.60, P < 0.001). In CRCs, NGAL expression was associated with cancer stage (P = 0.041) and tumor recurrence in stage II patients (P = 0.037). Survival analysis revealed that NGAL expression was an independent prognostic factor for overall survival (HR = 1.84, P = 0.004) and for disease-free survival of stage II patients (HR = 5.88, P = 0.021). In mouse models, the xenografts in cecum and spleen were heavier and more numerous in the group injected with NGAL-overexpressing CRC cells (P < 0.05).
NGAL overexpression may promote the tumorigenesis and progression of CRC. Detecting NGAL expression in tumor tissues may be useful for evaluating prognosis of patients with CRC.