CD44 as a stem cell marker in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Oncol Rep. 2011 Aug;26(2):321-6. doi: 10.3892/or.2011.1322. Epub 2011 May 26.


In the recent past, evidence is increasing indicating the existence of a subpopulation of resistant tumor cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) that cannot be eradicated by established antineoplastic treatments. These cancer stem cells (CSCs) have features of somatic stem cells such as selfrenewal, proliferation and differentiation. CD44+ cells in tumors of the head and neck are referred to as CSCs of HNSCC. Expression profiling of CD44 in 29 HNSCC tumors was performed by fluorescence microscopy. ELISA analysis was performed to detect concentration of soluble CD44 in the peripheral blood of 29 HNSCC patients and 11 healthy controls. Expression of CD44 was determined in all HNSCC tissue samples (n=29). In all samples a surface staining pattern was found. The concentration of CD44 in the peripheral blood of HNSCC patients was significantly higher compared to a healthy control group (mHNSCC =13.5 ± 0.5 ng/ ml; mCont = 9.3 ± 0.6 ng/ml; P=0.6 x 10(-12)). The role of CD44 as a marker for CSCs in HNSCC remains to be ascertained. Further experiments might reveal its role as a diagnostic and prognostic factor, and possibly as a therapeutic target.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / blood
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / blood
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / blood
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / blood
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD44 protein, human
  • Hyaluronan Receptors