Expression of SIP1 protein indicates poor prognosis in pharyngeal cancer

The expression of SIP1 protein in pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma tumours often indicates an advanced tumour stage, a high risk of recurrence and a poor prognosis, according to research from the University of Eastern Finland. Based on the results, SIP1 is a potential new prognostic factor for clinical use, helping to single out patients with more aggressive tumour behaviour requiring more intensive therapy and closer follow-up. Ms Anna Jouppila-Mättö, MD, presented the results in her doctoral thesis.

Although pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (PSCC) is a rather rare disease, its incidence has been increasing over the past three decades, now accounting for 130,000 new cases and 80,000 cancer deaths worldwide. The prognosis is one of the poorest of all the head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and it has not improved to any significant extent, despite the availability of multimodal therapies. The main risk factors for PSCC are the use of tobacco and alcohol. Recently, the human papilloma virus (HPV) has been shown to be involved in the development and prognosis of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, and many hospitals routinely test patients for HPV. No other distinct biomarkers for PSCC patient survival have been established thus far.

The first study to assess the role of EMT-related transcription factors in PSCC

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a complex cellular process which is not only crucial for embryogenesis, but it is also activated during tumour progression, enabling tumour cells to become invasive and to metastasise. Several transcription factors, like SNAI1, TWIST, SIP1, SLUG, and ZEB1, are fundamental in regulating EMT.

This study was the first to assess the role of EMT-related transcription factors in PSCC. The immunohistochemical expressions of transcription factors SNAI1, TWIST, SIP1, SLUG and ZEB1 were analysed in tumour cells, stromal and endothelial cell nuclei, as well as in cytoplasm of PSCC samples in an effort to evaluate the association of their expressions with clinicopathological variables and patient prognosis.

Tumours with positive epithelial nucleal SIP1 immunostaining were more advanced and had more lymph node metastases. The expression of SIP1 was also linked to poorer disease-specific five-year survival and was an independent prognostic factor in multivariate analysis together with tumour size and general patient status.

SNAI1 expression in endothelial cells predicted reduced survival and increased tumour size, whereas TWIST expression in stromal cells was linked to higher risk of recurrence. The co-expression of SNAI1, TWIST and SIP1 in tumour epithelial cell nuclei predicted poorer prognosis than SIP1 expression alone.

The results were originally published in Histology and Histopathology, and BMC Cancer.

For further information, please contact:

Anna Jouppila-Mättö, tel. +358500226224, anna.jouppila-matto (at)


About Us

The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.


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