Background/Aims: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) ranks sixth worldwide for tumor-related mortality. A subpopulation of tumor cells, termed cancer stem cells (CSCs), has the ability to support cancer growth. Therefore, profiling CSC-enriched populations could be a reliable tool to study cancer biology. Methods: We performed phenotypic characterization of 7 HNSCC cell lines and evaluated the presence of CSCs. CSCs from Hep-2 cell line and HNSCC primary cultures were enriched through sphere formation and sphere-forming cells have been characterized both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, we investigated the expression levels of Nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT), an enzyme overexpressed in several malignancies. Results: CSC markers were markedly expressed in Hep-2 cell line, which was found to be highly tumorigenic. CSC-enriched populations displayed increased expression of CSC markers and a strong capability to form tumors in vivo. We also found an overexpression of CSC markers in tumor formed by CSC-enriched populations. Interestingly, NNMT levels were significantly higher in CSC-enriched populations compared with parental cells. Conclusion: Our study provides an useful procedure for CSC identification and enrichment in HNSCC. Moreover, results obtained seem to suggest that CSCs may represent a promising target for an anticancer therapy.
- Cancer stem cells
- Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
- Nicotinamide N-Methyltransferase
ASJC Scopus subject areas