Podoplanin expressing cancer associated fibroblasts are associated with unfavourable prognosis in adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
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Overexpression of the mucin-type sialoglycoprotein podoplanin in cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) was recently shown to be associated with tumor progression, metastasis and poor prognosis in lung and breast cancer. Here we investigate the role of podoplanin expressing CAFs in esophagal adenocarcinoma (AC), its precursor lesions and metastases. Podoplanin expression was investigated immunohistochemically in 200 formalin-fixed, paraffin embedded specimens of invasive esophagal ACs, their corresponding metastases and 35 precursor lesions. Podoplanin expressing CAFs (CAF+) were observed in 22 % of patients with invasive AC, but not in precursor lesions. CAF+ correlated with tumor stage (p = 0.004), lymphovascular tumor invasion (p = 0.018) and lymph node metastasis (p = 0.0016). Patients with CAF+ had a significant shorter disease free and overall survival (p < 0.05, Cox regression). Podoplanin expressing CAFs were only rarely observed in lymph node and distant metastases, as well as in local recurrences of ACs. Podoplanin expression in AC tumor cells was seen in only four cases. In around 20 % of patients with esophagal AC, podoplanin expressing CAFs are evident, defining a high risk subgroup. In these patients, podoplanin expressing CAFs might represent new therapeutical targets.