Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) contributes significantly to tumor progression and metastasis. The assessment of EMT-associated transcription factors could be a promising approach to identify biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets in colorectal cancer. In our study, we focused on the transcription factor "Sine oculis homeobox" (SIX) 1, which is a member of the superfamily of the homeobox genes and has been described to promote EMT in different types of tumors. Immunohistochemistry against SIX1 was performed on colorectal mucosa, adenomas, carcinomas-in situ and primary adenocarcinomas. An expression score was developed and subsequently assessed for its prognostic value in two independent cohorts. Cohort 1 consisted of 128 patients with stage I-III colorectal cancer; cohort 2 included 817 patients with stage I-III colorectal cancer who had participated in the DACHS study. HCT-116 cells were transfected with SIX1 plasmids and subjected to migration and colony formation assays. The expression of SIX1 increases gradually from mucosa to colorectal adenocarcinomas (p > 0.0001). Univariate and multivariate analyses reveal that high expression of SIX1 is associated with decreased overall survival (cohort 1: HR: 4.01, CI: 1.20-14.07, p = 0.025; cohort 2: HR: 1.43, CI: 1.014-2.02, p = 0.047). Overexpression of SIX1 induces a more mesenchymal-like phenotype in HCT-116 cells and enhances tumor migration. High expression of SIX1 is an independent prognostic marker in colorectal cancer. It might be a promising biomarker to stratify patients into different risk groups. Moreover, targeting SIX1 might be a novel therapeutic approach in patients with colorectal cancer.
Keywords: EMT; SIX1; colorectal cancer; prognosis.
© 2015 UICC.