Background: To date, no good marker for screening or disease monitoring of endometrial cancer (EC) is available. The aims of this study were to investigate HE4 gene, protein expression and serum HE4 (sHE4) levels in a panel of ECs and normal endometria (NEs) and to correlate sHE4 with patient clinicopathological characteristics and prognosis.
Methods: Using quantitative real-time PCR we tested 46 ECs and 20 NEs for HE4 gene expression. Protein expression was analysed by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarrays in 153 ECs and 33 NEs. Pre-operative serum samples from 138 EC and 76 NE patients were analysed with HE4-EIA assay. Association between sHE4 and patient clinicopathological characteristics or outcome was evaluated.
Results: Protein and HE4 gene were significantly upregulated in EC tissues and sera, compared with controls. High sHE4 levels were significantly associated with worse EC clinical characteristics. By univariate survival analysis, high sHE4 levels significantly correlated with decreased overall survival, progression-free survival and disease-free survival, retaining their independent prognostic value on the poorly differentiated EC cohort.
Conclusion: We demonstrate, for the first time, that high sHE4 levels correlates with an aggressive EC phenotype and may constitute an independent prognostic factor for poorly differentiated-ECs. Determination of sHE4 could be clinically useful in identifying high-risk EC patients for a more aggressive adjuvant therapy.