SOX2 Gene Amplification and Overexpression is Linked to HPV-positive Vulvar Carcinomas

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SOX2 (SRY-related HMG-box 2) belongs to the SOX gene family of high-mobility transcription factors indispensably involved in gene regulation in pluripotent stem cells and neural differentiation. SOX2 copy number increases have been frequently reported in various types of squamous cell cancer. To better understand the effect of SOX2 aberrations on vulvar cancer phenotype and patient prognosis, we analyzed SOX2 copy number changes using fluorescence in situ hybridization and SOX2 expression by immunohistochemistry in 55 squamous cell carcinomas of the vulva. SOX2 amplification was found in 20.8% of tumors; 27.3% of vulvar carcinomas showed SOX2 protein overexpression. SOX2 amplification was correlated with SOX2 overexpression in our data set (P<0.01). Amplification of the SOX2 locus was associated with high tumor grade (P<0.05) and human papillomavirus (HPV) positivity (P<0.01). SOX2-amplified tumors showed more frequently a basaloid phenotype than nonamplified carcinomas. SOX2 protein overexpression was also correlated with basaloid phenotype and positive HPV status of vulvar carcinomas (P<0.05, each). SOX2 amplification and expression were not associated with patient overall survival. In conclusion, SOX2 copy number increases are detectable in a substantial proportion of high-grade HPV-positive vulvar carcinomas with basaloid differentiation. Our study provides further evidence for different molecular alterations in HPV-positive and HPV-negative vulvar carcinomas.

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