Head and neck cancer (HNC) remains the sixth most common malignancy worldwide and survival upon recurrence and/or metastasis remains poor. HNSCC has traditionally been associated with alcohol and nicotine use, but more recently the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has emerged as a favorable prognostic risk factor for oropharyngeal HNSCC. However, further stratification with additional biomarkers to predict patient outcome continues to be essential. One candidate biomarker is the DEK oncogenic protein, which was previously detected in the urine of patients with bladder cancer and is known to be secreted by immune cells such as macrophages. Here, we investigated if DEK could be detected in human plasma and if DEK levels correlated with clinical and pathological variables of HNSCC. Plasma was separated from the peripheral blood of newly diagnosed, untreated HNSCC patients or age-matched normal healthy controls and analyzed for DEK protein using ELISA. Plasma concentrations of DEK protein were lower in p16-negative tumors compared to both normal controls and patients with p16-positive tumors. Patients with lower plasma concentrations of DEK were also more likely to have late stage tumors and a lower white blood cell count. Contrary to previously published work demonstrating a poor prognosis with high intratumoral DEK levels, we show for the first time that decreased concentrations of DEK in patient plasma correlates with poor prognostic factors, including HPV-negative status as determined by negative p16 expression and advanced tumor stage.
Wise-Draper, T., Sendilnathan, A., Palackdharry, S., Pease, N., Qualtieri, J., Butler, R., … Privette Vinnedge, L. (2018). Decreased plasma DEK Oncogene Levels Correlate with p16-Negative Disease and Advanced Tumor Stage in a Case–Control Study of Patients with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Translational Oncology, 11(1), 168–174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tranon.2017.12.001