Presence of a putative tumor-initiating progenitor cell population predicts poor prognosis in smokers with non-small cell lung cancer.


Smoking is the most important known risk factor for the development of lung cancer. Tobacco exposure results in chronic inflammation, tissue injury, and repair. A recent hypothesis argues for a stem/progenitor cell involved in airway epithelial repair that may be a tumor-initiating cell in lung cancer and which may be associated with recurrence and metastasis. We used immunostaining, quantitative real-time PCR, Western blots, and lung cancer tissue microarrays to identify subpopulations of airway epithelial stem/progenitor cells under steady-state conditions, normal repair, aberrant repair with premalignant lesions and lung cancer, and their correlation with injury and prognosis. We identified a population of keratin 14 (K14)-expressing progenitor epithelial cells that was involved in repair after injury. Dysregulated repair resulted in the persistence of K14+ cells in the airway epithelium in potentially premalignant lesions. The presence of K14+ progenitor airway epithelial cells in NSCLC predicted a poor prognosis, and this predictive value was strongest in smokers, in which it also correlated with metastasis. This suggests that reparative K14+ progenitor cells may be tumor-initiating cells in this subgroup of smokers with NSCLC.

  • Alavi M
  • Chia D
  • Dubinett SM
  • Gilbert JL
  • Gomperts BN
  • Goodglick L
  • Gower AC
  • Ha VL
  • Hegab AE
  • Horvath S
  • Lenburg ME
  • Mah V
  • Maresh EL
  • Nickerson DW
  • Ooi AT
  • Solis LM
  • Spira A
  • Wallace WD
  • Walser TC
  • Wistuba II
PubMed ID
Appears In
Cancer Res, 2010, 70 (16)