Lymph node CXCL17 messenger RNA: A new prognostic biomarker for colon cancer

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Lymph node metastasis is the most important prognostic characteristic of colorectal cancer. Carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA was shown to detect tumor cells that have disseminated to lymph nodes of colorectal cancer patients and to be at least as good as the hematoxylin and eosin method to predict survival in colorectal cancer patients. CXCL17 was recently shown to be ectopically expressed in colon cancer tumors. Therefore, CXCL17 may serve as prognostic marker alone or in combination with carcinoembryonic antigen. CXCL17 and carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA levels were determined using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction with RNA copy standard in 389 lymph nodes of 120 colon cancer patients (stages I–IV) and 67 lymph nodes of 12 control patients with inflammatory bowel disease as well as in 68 primary tumors and 30 normal colon tissue samples. Lymph nodes of colon cancer patients were analyzed for CXCL17 and carcinoembryonic antigen protein expression by immunohistochemistry. CXCL17 messenger RNA was expressed in primary tumors at high levels, while it was barely detected in normal colon tissue (p < 0.0001). Similarly, CXCL17 messenger RNA levels were significantly higher in hematoxylin- and eosin-positive (hematoxylin and eosin (+)) lymph nodes compared to hematoxylin- and eosin-negative nodes (p < 0.0001). CXCL17 messenger RNA levels were investigated in lymph nodes grouped according to carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA levels: low (–), intermediate (int), and high (+). CXCL17 messenger RNA levels were higher in the carcinoembryonic antigen (int) and carcinoembryonic antigen (+) groups compared to the carcinoembryonic antigen (−) group (p = 0.03 and p < 0.0001, respectively). In lymph nodes of stage III and IV patients, CXCL17 messenger RNA levels correlated with carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA levels (p < 0.0001, r = 0.56 and p = 0.0002, r = 0.66, respectively). Staining of consecutive lymph node sections for CXCL17 and carcinoembryonic antigen demonstrated that the same cells expressed both proteins. Altogether, these results indicate that CXCL17 in lymph nodes is expressed by tumor cells. Patients were grouped according to the CXCL17 mRNA levels in the highest lymph node with low levels (−) and high levels (+). CXCL17(+) CC patients showed 2.2 fold increased risk for recurrence (P = 0.03) and decreased mean disease-free survival time of 33 months compared to CXCL17(−) CC patients (P = 0.03). CXCL17(+) carcinoembryonic antigen (int) colon cancer patients showed increased risk for recurrence by 8.3 fold (p = 0.04) and decreased mean disease-free survival time of 46 months compared to CXCL17(−) carcinoembryonic antigen (int) colon cancer patient at follow-up after 12 years (p = 0.02). The presence of tumor cells expressing CXCL17 in regional lymph nodes is a sign of poor prognosis. Analysis of CXCL17 messenger RNA is particularly useful to detect less differentiated colon cancer tumors expressing relatively low carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA levels. Thus, CXCL17 messenger RNA in combination with carcinoembryonic antigen messenger RNA may be used as a complementary tool to the hematoxylin and eosin method for detection of poorly differentiated, aggressive tumors.


  • Yomna Rashad
  • Lina Olsson
  • Anne Israelsson
  • Åke Öberg
  • Gudrun Lindmark
  • Marie Louise Hammarström
  • Sten Hammarström
  • Basel Sitohy
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Umeå University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Cancer och onkologi
  • Cell- och molekylärbiologi


TidskriftTumor Biology
StatusPublished - 2018
Peer review utfördJa