Aberrant expression of nuclear vimentin and related epithelial-mesenchymal transition markers in nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Int J Cancer. 2012 Oct 15;131(8):1863-73. doi: 10.1002/ijc.27467. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Expression of vimentin and the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers E-cadherin, β-catenin is essential for the progression of various human cancers. Our study aimed to investigate the aberrant localization E-cadherin, β-catenin and vimentin, and their prognostic significance in 122 nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. Our results showed that both membranous and cytoplasmic localization of E-cadherin staining were associated with lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000 and 0.005, respectively) and clinical stage (p = 0.000 and 0.007, respectively). High cytoplasmic β-catenin correlated significantly with larger tumor size (p = 0.020), lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000) and advanced clinical stage (p = 0.036). However, no significant difference was observed between membranous β-catenin and clinicopathologic features (p ≥ 0.05). High nuclear vimentin expression correlated significantly with positive lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000) and advanced clinical stage (p = 0.000). Multivariate analysis showed that nuclear vimentin and cytoplasmic E-cadherin were independent prognostic factors (p = 0.016 and 0.001, respectively), as well as M classification (p = 0.001). More importantly, patients with high coexpression of nuclear vimentin and cytoplasmic E-cadherin had shorter survival time (p = 0.000). Furthermore, high coexpression of these two proteins was closely associated with lymph node metastasis (p = 0.000) and advanced clinical stage (p = 0.000). Our studies provide convincing evidence that EMT may play an important role in the biological progression of NPC, and nuclear vimentin and cytoplasmic E-cadherin might have independent prognostic value in NPC patients and serve as novel targets for prognostic therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Vimentin / metabolism*
  • Young Adult
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cadherins
  • Vimentin
  • beta Catenin