Expression of cancer stem cell markers is prognostic in metastatic gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma
Gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma is a common and highly lethal malignancy. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have a key role in the development and progression of metastatic disease. While expression of CSC markers CD44, CD133 and aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 (ALDH1) in locoregional gastroesophageal cancer is known to be associated with poorer clinical outcomes, the significance of CSC marker expression in distal metastatic disease is unknown. We investigated the clinicopathological and prognostic associations of the CSC markers, CD44, CD133, and ALDH1, on metastatic deposits from gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas, and evaluated the association of CSC expression with urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) expression. Of the 36 patients included in the study, 16 (44%) were positive for CD44, 13 (36%) were positive for CD133, and 26 (72%) were positive for ALDH1. CD44 expression was significantly associated with poorer overall survival (OS) in univariate [hazard ratio (HR) 2.9, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3-6.9, p=0.008] and multivariate analyses (HR 2.5, 95%CI 1.1-6.2, p=0.04). ALDH1 expression was significantly associated with poorer OS in univariate (HR 2.4, 95% CI 1.01-5.7, p=0.04) analysis but was not significant in multivariate analysis. Both CD44 and ALDH1 expression were significantly associated with uPAR expression. We found no association between CD133 expression and OS. CD44 expression on metastatic disease from gastroesophageal adenocarcinomas is an independent prognostic marker associated with poorer OS. These results expand current evidence to support the role of CSCs as biomarkers in metastatic gastroesophageal cancer.