The expression of the activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM and CD166) is increased in various types of cancer. We aimed to evaluate its role as a prognostic marker for esophageal cancer (EC). We retrospectively analyzed ALCAM expression in 299 primary lesions, 147 lymph node and 46 distant metastases from EC patients, on a tissue microarray using immunohistochemistry. Bone marrow samples from representative cancer patients (n = 16), taken before primary surgery, were stained by double-immunofluorescence for ALCAM and cytokeratins (CK). Blood serum samples from 236 cancer patients and 127 controls were analyzed for serum ALCAM (s-ALCAM) by ELISA. The immunohistochemical analysis showed increased ALCAM expression in the majority of lesions (primary tumor 71%, lymph node 76% and distant metastases 80%). ALCAM expression was not associated with histopathological parameters except for tumor grading (p = 0.015). ALCAM-positive patients had significantly worse recurrence-free and overall survival (OS; p = 0.002). Disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in bone marrow showed two phenotypes, ALCAM+/CK+ (36%) and ALCAM-/CK+ (64%). Multivariate analysis revealed that ALCAM expression and elevated s-ALCAM serum values are powerful prognostic variables for OS in patients with EC (hazard ratio [HR] 3.987, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 1.906-8.340, p < 0.001 and HR 1.915, 95%CI 1.021-3.592, p = 0.043). The results of our study provide preliminary evidence for the potential clinical utility of ALCAM as a prognostic biomarker for EC, which might be a basis for future clinical application. In addition, ALCAM expression in a subset of DTC of the bone marrow indicates a potential function in the metastatic cascade of EC.
Copyright © 2011 UICC.