AF1q Expression Associates with CD44 and STAT3 and Impairs Overall Survival in Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma of the Head and Neck

Pathol Oncol Res. 2020 Apr;26(2):1287-1292. doi: 10.1007/s12253-019-00696-z. Epub 2019 Jul 4.


Salivary gland malignancies of the head and neck form a heterogeneous group. Adenoid cystic carcinomas are an aggressive entity of salivary gland malignancies characterized by frequent distant metastases and poor response to radio- and chemotherapy. AF1Q is a MLL fusion partner, which can activate Wnt and STAT3 signaling. Recently, overexpression of AF1q has been identified as a poor prognosticator in patients of different malignancies. A total of 46 patients with adenoid cystic carcinoma were immunohistochemically evaluated for expression of AF1q and clinical outcome was analyzed in this context. Additionally, STAT3 and the Wnt downstream target CD44 were investigated and correlated with AF1q. AF1q was overexpressed in 52.2%. Overexpression of AF1q was associated with poorer overall survival (p = 0.03). Additionally, lymph node metastases and solid tumor parts were more frequently observed in AF1qhigh patients (p = 0.07 and 0.05, respectively). AF1q did not influence the occurrence of distant metastases. Expression of AF1q was associated with higher levels of STAT3 and CD44 (p = 0.003 and 0.006, respectively). AF1q is a novel prognostic marker for poor overall survival in adenoid cystic carcinoma patients. The deleterious effects on survival may be a result of promotion of the STAT3 and Wnt pathway.

Keywords: AF1q; Adenoid cystic carcinoma; Prognosis; STAT3; Wnt.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Adenoid Cystic / pathology*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / mortality
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD44 protein, human
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • MLLT11 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • STAT3 protein, human