Objective: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a debilitating disease which is cured only 50% of the time. If diagnosed early, survival rates could reach 80%, but there is currently no practical method for early detection. CD44 comprises a family of isoforms that, in certain tumors, are alternatively spliced and overexpressed in tissues and circulation. Here we examine salivary soluble CD44 (solCD44) expression in HNSCC patients and normal controls to determine its potential as a screening tool. Method: We did a solCD44 ELISA on saliva from 26 HNSCC patients, 10 normal volunteers, conditioned media (CM) of 4 HNSCC cell lines, and 1 CD44-negative cell line (COS-7). Western blot was done on CM from 2 HNSCC cell lines (UMSS11B and FaDu), COS-7, 3 HNSCC, and 2 normal saliva specimens to verify ELISA antibody specificity. SolCD44 levels were significantly elevated in HNSCC patients compared with normal controls (7.85 ng/mL for HNSCC patients and 1.09 ng/mL for normal controls, P < 0.001). Results: The test detected 79% of mucosally invasive HNSCC using preliminary cutoff points. SolCD44 levels did not vary significantly with tumor size, stage, recurrence, history of radiation treatment, or tobacco and alcohol risk factors. A 65 to 75 kDa band, corresponding to solCD44, was detected in all of the HNSCC cell line CM and saliva whereas normal samples showed a fainter band or were undetectable. Conclusion: In this preliminary analysis, the salivary solCD44 ELISA seems to effectively detect HNSCC at all stages. Further study is indicated because early detection is clearly important in this disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas