Expression patterns and clinical significance of the potential cancer stem cell markers OCT4 and NANOG in colorectal cancer patients

Colorectal Cancer

Mol Cell Oncol. 2020 Jul 14;7(5):1788366. doi: 10.1080/23723556.2020.1788366. eCollection 2020.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most important malignancies and causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Cancer stem cell markers identification could be helpful to acquire important prognostic information and develop new treatment regimens. This study aimed to evaluate the expression of OCT4 and NANOG in CRC patients and their clinical significance.

Totally 359 CRC samples were stained for OCT4 and NANOG expression using tissue microarray. The correlation between their expression and clinical and pathological features was explored.

The majority of CRC cases showed low-level expression of OCT4 (80%) and NANOG (75%). Lower expression of OCT4 was more often detected in CRC cases with no vascular involvement (P = .01). Also, a trend found between low level of OCT4 expression and absence of distant metastasis or lymph node involvement (P = .07 and P = .09, respectively). Surprisingly, a significant positive correlation was observed between NANOG expression and cellular differentiation (P = .05). Our combined analysis demonstrated that OCT4 low/NANOG low phenotype has frequently seen in colorectal cancer cases with no vascular invasion (P = .05).

Our observations indicated that higher expression of OCT4 and NANOG can confer malignant and aggressive behavior to CRC. Evaluation of the co-expression of these cancer stem cell markers can serve a new diagnostic and prognostic approach in CRC patients. These findings also suggested that simultaneous expression of OCT4 and NANOG can be considered as a therapeutic marker for targeted therapy of CRC, especially in advanced stages.