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CD151 expression is frequent but unrelated to clinical outcome in head and neck cancer



CD151 is a plasma membrane protein belonging to the tetraspanin family. CD151 represents a putative therapeutic target and has been suggested as a prognostic marker in several cancer types. The present study aims to investigate the prognostic relevance of immunohistochemical CD151 expression in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

Materials and methods

Tissue microarray (TMA) sections containing samples from 667 cancers of oral cavity, oro- and hypopharynx and larynx, for which follow-up data were available, were analyzed for CD151 expression by immunohistochemistry.


Membranous CD151 immunostaining was recorded in 269 (60.3 %) of 446 analyzable cases. Staining was considered weak in 129 (28.9 %), moderate in 98 (22.0 %), and strong in 42 (9.4 %) of cancers. CD151 expression was unrelated to histological grade, tumor stage, nodal status, or surgical margin. There was a tendency towards a somewhat lower prevalence of CD151 expression in tumors of the oral cavity (52.9 % positive) as compared to cancers of the oro-hypopharynx (62.1 %) and larynx (63.3 %; p = 0.0100). CD151 expression had no impact on patient survival.

Clinical relevance

In summary, immunohistochemical analysis of CD151 lacks prognostic utility in HNSCC. The high prevalence of CD151 expression in HNSCC emphasizes its putative relevance as a therapeutic target for further development of anti-CD151 drugs.

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Author information

Correspondence to Ronald Simon.

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Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.



Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The usage of archived diagnostic left-over tissues for manufacturing of tissue microarrays and their analysis for purposes as well as patient data analysis has been approved by local laws (HmbKHG, §12,1) and by the local ethics committee (Ethics commission Hamburg, WF-049/09 and PV3652).

Informed consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required as detailed in the local law (HmbKHG, §12,1).5

Additional information

Julie C. Nienstedt, Alexander Gröbe, Max Heiland, and Christina Pflug, these authors have equally contributed

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Nienstedt, J.C., Gröbe, A., Lebok, P. et al. CD151 expression is frequent but unrelated to clinical outcome in head and neck cancer. Clin Oral Invest 21, 1503–1508 (2017).

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  • CD151
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Prognosis
  • Head and neck cancer