Primary cilia are increased in number and demonstrate structural abnormalities in human cancer

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Primary cilia play an important role in the regulation of cell signalling pathways and are thought to have a role in cancer but have seldom been studied in human cancer samples.


Primary cilia were visualised by dual immunofluorescence for anti-CROCC (ciliary rootlet coiled-coil) and anti-tubulin in a range of human cancers (including carcinomas of stomach, pancreas, prostate, lung and colon, lobular and ductal breast cancers and follicular lymphoma) and in matched normal tissue (stomach, pancreas, lung, large and small intestines, breast and reactive lymph nodes) samples using a tissue microarray; their frequency, association with proliferation, was measured by Ki-67 staining and their structure was analysed.


Compared with normal tissues, primary cilia frequency was significantly elevated in adenocarcinoma of the lung (2.75% vs 1.85%, p=0.016), adenocarcinoma of the colon (3.80% vs 2.43%, respectively, p=0.017), follicular lymphoma (1.18% vs 0.83%, p=0.003) and pancreatic adenocarcinoma (7.00% vs 5.26%, p=0.002); there was no statistically significant difference compared with normal control tissue for gastric and prostatic adenocarcinomas or for lobular and ductal breast cancers. Additionally, structural abnormalities of primary cilia were identified in cancer tissues, including elongation of the axoneme, multiple basal bodies and branching of the axoneme. Ki-67 scores ranged from 0.7% to 78.4% and showed no statistically significant correlation with primary cilia frequency across all tissues (p=0.1501).


The results show upregulation of primary cilia and the presence of structural defects in a wide range of human cancer tissue samples demonstrating association of dysregulation of primary cilia with human cancer.

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