Genomic analysis defines a cancer-specific gene expression signature for human squamous cell carcinoma and distinguishes malignant hyperproliferation from benign hyperplasia

J Invest Dermatol. 2006 Apr;126(4):869-81. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700157.


Using high-density oligonucleotide arrays, we measured expression of >12,000 genes in surgical excisions of invasive human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) versus site-matched control skin. This analysis defined >1,900 genes with altered expression in SCCs that were statistically different from controls. As SCCs are composed of epithelial cells, which are both hyperplastic and invasive, we sought to define gene sets associated with these biologic processes by comparing gene expression to psoriasis vulgaris, which is a condition of benign keratinocyte hyperplasia without invasiveness or pre-malignant potential. Through this analysis, we found genes that were commonly upregulated in both conditions and unique genes with increased expression in SCCs. Differential gene regulation in these two conditions was confirmed by real-time reverse transcription-PCR and immunohistochemistry. We found that benign hyperplasia is associated with upregulation of genes including DEFB4 (defensin B4), SERPINB3 (serine proteinase inhibitor, member 3), STAT1 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 1), K16 (keratin 16), CEACAMs (carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecules), and WNT 5A (wingless-type MMTV integration site family, member 5A). WNT receptor frizzled homolog 6 (FZD6) and prostaglandin-metabolizing enzyme hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase were increased in SCC alone. Growth factor pleiotrophin (PTN) was expressed at higher levels in non-tumor-bearing skin adjacent to excised SCC. SCC was further characterized by upregulation of matrix metalloproteinases 1, 10, and 13, cathepsin L2, cystatin E/M as well as STAT3 and microseminoprotein, beta (MSMB), and downregulation of inducible nitric oxide synthase, granzyme B, CD8, and CD83. The current study defines a unique gene expression signature for cutaneous SCC in humans and suggests potential roles for WNT, FZD, and PTN in the pathogenesis of SCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, Neoplasm*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia / diagnosis
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*