J Cancer 2020; 11(23):6812-6822. doi:10.7150/jca.48939

Research Paper

High serum CCL20 is associated with tumor progression in penile cancer

Miao Mo1, Shiyu Tong1, Wei Huang2, Yi Cai1, Xiongbing Zu1, Xiheng Hu1✉

1. Department of Urology, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan 410008, P.R. China.
2. Xiangya School of Medicine, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan 410008, P.R. China.

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Mo M, Tong S, Huang W, Cai Y, Zu X, Hu X. High serum CCL20 is associated with tumor progression in penile cancer. J Cancer 2020; 11(23):6812-6822. doi:10.7150/jca.48939. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v11p6812.htm

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Serum cancer biomarker has been proven to be very valuable in cancer diagnosis, disease monitoring and prognosis assessment, despite there is still a lack of serum biomarker for penile cancer (PC). Our initial analysis on public GEO dataset identified CCL20 as a top C-C motif ligand (CCL) gene enriched in PC. The patients with PC exhibited markedly higher preoperative serum CCL20 level than healthy control. The area under the curve (AUC) was 0.855 with the sensitivity of 72.4%, and specificity of 93.5% to distinguish PC. Preoperative serum CCL20 level was significantly associated with clinicopathological characteristics including T stage (P=0.005), nodal status (P=0.008), and pelvic lymph node metastasis (P=0.007). PC Patients with high serum CCL20 level had shorter disease-free survival compared to those with low level (P<0.001). Cox regression analysis showed that serum CCL20 level could serve as an independent prognostic factor for disease-free survival with a HR of 3.980 (95% CI: 1.209-13.098, P=0.023). Furthermore, CCL20 expression was observed in PC tissues and cell lines. Knockdown of CCL20 expression markedly suppressed malignant phenotypes (cell proliferation, clonogenesis, apoptosis escape, migration and invasion), attenuated STAT3 and AKT signaling and reduced MMP2/9 secretion in PC cell lines. Consistently, CCL20 and its receptor CCR6 exhibited correlated expression pattern in PC tissues. In conclusion, serum CCL20 level might serve as a potential diagnostic and prognostic cancer biomarker for PC. CCL20 might activate multiple downstream oncogenic signaling pathways (STAT3, AKT, MMP2/9) to promote malignant progression of PC, which may warrant further investigation in the future.

Keywords: penile cancer, CCL20, cancer biomarker, prognosis