Snail1, a key regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), plays an important role in tumour progression. Previous studies of snail1 have mainly focused on the epithelial tumour cells. The objective of this study was to evaluate the expression of snail1 protein in endothelial cells, stromal myofibroblasts and malignant epithelial cells of pharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (PSCC), as well as its relation to clinicopathological features and survival. One hundred and ten tissue microarray samples were analyzed for snail1 expression using immunohistochemistry. In endothelial cells snail1 expression was observed in 51 (48%) of 107 cases and it predicted reduced disease specific survival (DSS) (p=0.009). In 49 (46%) tumour samples snail1 immunostaining was detected in stromal myofibroblasts and there was a tendency to poorer DSS in that group (p=0.067). Snail1 expression in endothelial cells and stromal myofibroblasts is also associated with hypopharyngeal tumours (p=0.01 and p=0.038 respectively), increasing T category (T3-4) (p=0.005, p=0.037 respectively) and poorer general condition of the patient (Karnofsky performance status score <70; p=0.029, p=0.039 respectively). Moreover endothelial expression correlated with advanced stage (III-IV) (p=0.005) and poorer differentiation (grade 2-3; p=0.012). In malignant epithelial cells snail1 immunostaining was detected in 75 of 110 cases (68%). Expression of the protein was more common in hypopharyngeal tumours (p=0.044). Snail1 positive tumours associated with a lower Karnofsky performance status score (p=0.039) and regional failure (p=0.042). Our findings indicate that snail1 protein expression in endothelial cells and to some extent also in tumour stromal myofibroblasts seems to be a predictor of poor survival in PSCC. The presence of snail1 protein in tumour microenvironment rather than in malignant epithelial tumour cells may induce tissue remodelling and tumour progression.
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