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Keywords:

  • cyclooxygenase-2;
  • epidermal growth factor receptor;
  • laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma;
  • prognostic markers

Abstract

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) overexpression is an unfavorable prognostic marker in laryngeal squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). EGFR stimulates cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression in normal human keratinocytes and squamous carcinoma cells. Based on these observations a prognostic role of COX-2 expression in laryngeal SCC can be hypothesized. Consequently, COX-2 expression was studied in laryngeal SCC (median follow-up = 47 months; range: 2–87 months) by quantitative immunohistochemistry (n = 61) and EGFR by binding assay (n = 51). Well-differentiated regions of laryngeal SCC revealed strong COX-2 immunostaining, whereas histologically normal areas neighboring tumor as well as poorly-differentiated tumors were negative. Immunohistochemical results were confirmed by Western blot analyses. Cox's regression analysis showed that the combination of low levels of COX-2 integrated density and high levels of EGFR covariates provided strong prediction, at 5-year follow-up, of both poor overall survival (χ2 = 12.905; p = 0.0016) and relapse-free survival (χ2 = 9.209; p = 0.01). In vitro studies on CO-K3 cell line, obtained from an EGFR positive, COX-2 negative poorly-differentiated laryngeal SCC, revealed that EGF stimulation failed to induce COX-2 expression and PGE2 production suggesting a change in EGFR signaling pathway. These findings indicate that COX-2 is overexpressed in less aggressive, low grade laryngeal SCC, whereas its expression is lost when tumors progress to a more malignant phenotype. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.