Frequency of cells expressing CD44, a Head and Neck cancer stem cell marker: Correlation with tumor aggressiveness

Benzion Joshua, Michael J. Kaplan, Ilana Doweck, Reetesh Pai, Irving L. Weissman, Mark E. Prince, Laurie E. Ailles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


Background. We previously identified by flow cytometry a Lineage-CD44+ (Lin-CD44+) subpopulation of cells with cancer stem cell properties in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). We now correlate clinical and histologic factors with Lin-CD44+ cell frequency. Methods. The study included 31 patients with HNSCC, of whom 87% had stage IV disease. The frequency of Lin-CD44+ cells and the success of xenografting patient tumors in mice were correlated with clinical and pathologic data. Results. The mean frequency of Lin-CD44+ cells was 25% (0.4%-81%). It was 36% in patients who had recurrence versus 15% for those without recurrence (p =.04). Successful xenograft implantation occurred in 53%. Seventy-five percent of patients with successful xenografts had recurrence versus 21% of patients with unsuccessful xenografts (p =.003). Conclusions Successful xenograft implantation and a high frequency of Lin-CD44+ cells correlate with known poor prognostic factors such as advanced T classification and recurrence. These findings may support the stem cell concept in HNSCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalHead and Neck
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • CD44
  • cancer
  • head and neck
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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