Tumor carbonic anhydrase 9 expression is associated with the presence of lymph node metastases in uterine cervical cancer

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Tumor hypoxia has a pronounced effect on malignant progression and metastatic spread of human tumors. As carbonic anhydrases (CA) 9 and 12 are induced by the low-oxygen environment within tumors, we investigated the relationship between the expression of these two CA and the presence of metastatic lymph nodes (LN) in uterine cervical cancer. CA9/CA12 expression was evaluated histochemically in primary cervical cancer tissues of 73 patients who underwent laparoscopic LN staging and two patients with clinical staging before definitive radiotherapy at the National Cancer Center, Korea. We also evaluated CA9 expression in 33 patients with pathologically confirmed metastatic LN. CA9 expression in the primary tumors was significantly associated with LN metastasis (P = 0.03) and poorer disease-free survival (relative risk, 6.1; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–28.3, P = 0.02, multivariate analysis), whereas CA12 expression did not show such a relationship. In addition, 21 of 24 metastatic LN revealed similar CA9 expression (P = 0.001), suggesting that CA9-expressing tumor cells had a higher metastatic potential. CA9 was expressed in 45 of 75 (60%) primary tumors, with positive tumor cells observed predominantly in the area away from the blood vessels. In contrast, CA12 expression was observed in only 29 of 74 primary tumors (39%), without a specific pattern. These findings indicate that expression of CA9, but not CA12, in tumors is associated with the presence of LN metastases and poorer prognosis. Selective application of new treatment modalities based on CA9 expression to prevent LN metastases may improve overall treatment outcome in patients with uterine cervical cancer.

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