CD44-negative cells in head and neck squamous carcinoma also have stem-cell like traits

Se Yeong Oh, Hyun Jung Kang, Young Sook Kim, Hyunggee Kim, Young Chang Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


CD44 is generally accepted as a surrogate marker for head and neck squamous carcinoma cancer stem cells (HNSC CSCs) and only CD44+ HNSC cells have tumour initiating capacity. However, a recent report suggested that CSCs themselves might be heterogenous due to various genetic alterations. Here, we compared in vitro stem-like cell characteristics, chemoresistance and in vivo tumour formation capacity of CD44+ and CD44- HNSC cells obtained from primary HNSC patient specimens. CD44- HNSC spheroid cells generated spheroid cells again after seeding of single-dissociated spheroid CD44- HNSC cells. Immunocytochemistry assays revealed that various stem cell markers, including octamer-binding transcription factor 4 (OCT4), sex determining region Y-box 2 (SOX2) and nestin were up-regulated in CD44- spheroid cells, similar to CD44+ spheroid cells. Furthermore, CD44- spheroid cells appeared to be chemoresistant to cisplatin and showed increased levels of ABCG2, similar to CD44+ spheroid cells. Of most interest, as few as 1000 CD44- spheroid cells were able to give rise to tumours in nude mice. The collective data indicate that the cell surface marker CD44 cannot be used as a selective marker of spheroid-forming, tumour-initiating or chemoresistant cell populations, and further indicate the limitation of current HNSC CSC identification methods using the CD44 cell surface marker.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-280
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jan


  • Biomarkers
  • CD44
  • Head and neck neoplasm
  • Neoplastic stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


Dive into the research topics of 'CD44-negative cells in head and neck squamous carcinoma also have stem-cell like traits'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this