Open Access Research article

Pituitary tumor-transforming gene expression is a prognostic marker for tumor recurrence in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck

Christine Solbach1*, Marc Roller23, Frank Eckerdt14, Silke Peters2 and Rainald Knecht2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University School of Medicine, D-60590, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2 Department of Otolaryngology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University School of Medicine, D-60590, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

3 Business Unit Oncology, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, CH-4057, Basel, Switzerland

4 Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, CO 80262, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2006, 6:242  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-242

Published: 9 October 2006



The proto-oncogene pituitary tumor-transforming gene (PTTG) has been shown to be abundantly overexpressed in a large variety of neoplasms likely promoting neo-vascularization and tumor invasiveness. In this study, we investigated a potential role for PTTG mRNA expression as a marker to evaluate the future clinical outcome of patients diagnosed with primary cancer of the head and neck.


Tumor samples derived from primary tumors of 89 patients suffering from a squamous cell carcinoma were analyzed for PTTG mRNA-expression and compared to corresponding unaffected tissue. Expression levels were correlated to standard clinico-pathological parameters based on a five year observation period.


In almost all 89 tumor samples PTTG was found to be overexpressed (median fold increase: 2.1) when compared to the unaffected tissue specimens derived from the same patient. The nodal stage correlated with PTTG transcript levels with significant differences between pN0 (median expression: 1.32) and pN+ (median expression: 2.12; P = 0.016). In patients who developed a tumor recurrence we detected a significantly higher PTTG expression in primary tumors (median expression: 2.63) when compared to patients who did not develop a tumor recurrence (median expression: 1.29; P = 0.009). Since the median expression of PTTG in patients with tumor stage T1/2N0M0 that received surgery alone without tumor recurrence was 0.94 versus 3.82 in patients suffering from a tumor recurrence (P = 0.006), PTTG expression might provide a feasible mean of predicting tumor recurrence.


Elevated PTTG transcript levels might be used as a prognostic biomarker for future clinical outcome (i.e. recurrence) in primary squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck, especially in early stages of tumor development.