Hypothesis: Because of some inconsistencies in the traditional model of human colorectal carcinogenesis, the cancer stem cell (CSC) model was recently proposed, in which tumor results from neoplastic transformation of stem cells, which become CSCs. Identification of CSCs by expression of surface antigens remains a critical issue because no biomarker has been shown to be completely reliable. CD133 and CD44 are commonly used as CSC markers, and correlation of their expression with colorectal cancer (CRC) clinicopathological features and outcomes may be useful. Design: Pilot study. Setting: University hospital. Patients: Thirty-six consecutive patients with CRC. CD133 and CD44 expression (alone or combined) was determined in nontumor cells and in tumor cells by flow cytometry, which identified viable cells only. Main Outcome Measures: Correlation of CD133 and CD44 expression with each other, with other prognostic indicators, and with disease-free survival. Results: CD133 and CD44 expression was significantly higher in tumor cells than in nontumor cells, and expression of one did not necessarily correlate with expression of the other. CD133 or CD44 expression alone was variable, while combined CD133/CD44 expression identified a small subset of cells positive for CRC. CD133 or CD44 overexpression was not associated with CRC recurrence; only high frequencies of CD133 +/CD44 + cells were a strong indicator of worse disease-free survival and an independent risk factor for CRC recurrence. Conclusion: Evaluation of combined CD133/CD44 expression could be useful to identify putative colorectal CSCs and tumors with a poor prognosis.
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