The major roles of keratin 17 (K17) as a prognostic biomarker have been highlighted in a range of human malignancies. However, its relevance to esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) remains unexplored. In this study, the relationship between K17 expression and clinicopathologic parameters and survival were determined by RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) in 90 ESCCs and by immunohistochemistry (IHC) in 68 ESCCs. K17 expression was significantly higher in ESCC than in paired normal tissues at both the messenger RNA and protein levels. K17 messenger RNA and staining by IHC were significantly correlated with aggressive characteristics, including advanced clinical stage, invasion depth, and lymph node metastases; and were predictive of poor prognosis in advanced disease patients. Furthermore, K17 expression was detected by IHC in high-grade premalignant lesions of the esophageal mucosa, suggesting that K17 could also be a biomarker of dysplasia of the esophageal mucosa. Overall, this study established that K17 is a negative prognostic biomarker for the most common subtype of esophageal cancer.
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