Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

CD133 antigen expression in ovarian cancer

Gabriella Ferrandina12*, Enrica Martinelli1, Marco Petrillo2, Maria Grazia Prisco1, Gianfranco Zannoni3, Stefano Sioletic3 and Giovanni Scambia2

Author Affiliations

1 Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Department of Oncology, Catholic University, Campobasso, Italy

2 Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Catholic University, Rome, Italy

3 Institute of Human Pathology, Catholic University, Rome, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cancer 2009, 9:221  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-221

Published: 7 July 2009



Much attention has been recently focused on the role of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in the initiation and progression of solid malignancies. Since CSCs are able to proliferate and self-renew extensively, thus sustaining tumor growth, the identification of CSCs through their antigenic profile might have relevant clinical implications. In this context, CD133 antigen has proved to be a marker of tumor cells with stemness features in several human malignancies.

The aim of the study was to investigate the clinical role of the immunohistochemically assessed expression of CD133 in a large single Institution series of ovarian cancer patients.


The study included 160 cases admitted to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit, Catholic University of Campobasso and Rome. CD133 antigen was identified by the monoclonal mouse anti-CD133-1 antibody (clone CD133 Miltenyi biotec).


In the overall series CD133 positive tumor cells were observed in 50/160 (31.2%) cases. A diffuse cytoplasmic pattern was identified in 30/50 (60.0%), while an apical cytoplasmic pattern was found in 20/50 (40.0%) of CD133 positive tumors.

As of September 2008, the median follow up was 37 months (range: 2–112). During the follow up period, progression and death of disease were observed in 123 (76.9%), and 88 (55.0%) cases, respectively. There was no difference in TTP between cases with negative (median TTP = 23 months) versus positive CD133 expression (median TTP = 24 months) (p value = 0.3). Similar results were obtained for OS. When considering the TTP and OS curves according to the pattern of CD133 expression, a trend to a worse prognosis for cases with diffuse cytoplasmic versus the apical cytoplasmic pattern was documented, although the statistical significance was not reached.


The immunohistochemical assessment of CD133 expression seems not to provide additional prognostic information in ovarian cancer patients. The role of the different pattern of CD133 immunoreaction deserves further investigation in a larger series.