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Keratins 17 and 19 expression as prognostic markers in oral squamous cell carcinoma

Author(s): B.A. Coelho, G.T. Peterle, M. Santos, L.P. Agostini, L.L. Maia, E. Stur, C.V.M. Silva, S.O. Mendes, C.C.J. Almança, F.V. Freitas, A.R. Borçoi, A.B. Archanjo, A.M.C. Mercante, F.D. Nunes, M.B. Carvalho, E.H. Tajara, I.D. Louro and A.M.A Silva-Conforti

Five-year survival rates for oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) are 30% and the mortality rate is 50%. Immunohistochemistry panels are used to evaluate proliferation, vascularization, apoptosis, HPV infection, and keratin expression, which are important markers of malignant progression. Keratins are a family of intermediate filaments predominantly expressed in epithelial cells and have an essential role in mechanical support and cytoskeleton formation, which is essential for the structural integrity and stability of the cell. In this study, we analyzed the expressions of keratins 17 and 19 (K17 and K19) by immunohistochemistry in tumoral and non-tumoral tissues from patients with OSCC. The results show that expression of these keratins is higher in tumor tissues compared to non-tumor tissues. Positive K17 expression correlates with lymph node metastasis and multivariate analysis confirmed this relationship, revealing a 6-fold increase in lymph node metastasis when K17 is expressed. We observed a correlation between K17 expression with disease-free survival and disease-specific death in patients who received surgery and radiotherapy. Multivariate analysis revealed that low expression of K17 was an independent marker for early disease relapse and disease-specific death in patients treated with surgery and radiotherapy, with an approximately 4-fold increased risk when compared to high K17 expression. Our results suggest a potential role for K17 and K19 expression profiles as tumor prognostic markers in OSCC patients.