Open Access Open Badges Research article

Tenascin-W is a better cancer biomarker than tenascin-C for most human solid tumors

Florence Brellier1, Enrico Martina126, Martin Degen126, Nathalie Heuzé-Vourc’h34, Agnès Petit4, Thomas Kryza34, Yves Courty4, Luigi Terracciano5, Christian Ruiz5 and Ruth Chiquet-Ehrismann12*

Author Affiliations

1 Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Novartis Research Foundation, Basel, Switzerland

2 Faculty of Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

3 Université François Rabelais, EA 6305, F-37032, Tours, France

4 Centre d'Etude des Pathologies Respiratoires, UMR 1100/EA6305, F-37032, Tours, France

5 Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

6 Present address: Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Skin Disease Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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BMC Clinical Pathology 2012, 12:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6890-12-14

Published: 4 September 2012



Tenascins are large glycoproteins found in the extracellular matrix of many embryonic and adult tissues. Tenascin-C is a well-studied biomarker known for its high overexpression in the stroma of most solid cancers. Tenascin-W, the least studied member of the family, is highly expressed in the stroma of colon and breast tumors and in gliomas, but not in the corresponding normal tissues. Other solid tumors have not been analyzed. The present study was undertaken to determine whether tenascin-W could serve as a cancer-specific extracellular matrix protein in a broad range of solid tumors.


We analyzed the expression of tenascin-W and tenascin-C by immunoblotting and by immunohistochemistry on multiple frozen tissue microarrays of carcinomas of the pancreas, kidney and lung as well as melanomas and compared them to healthy tissues.


From all healthy adult organs tested, only liver and spleen showed detectable levels of tenascin-W, suggesting that tenascin-W is absent from most human adult organs under normal, non-pathological conditions. In contrast, tenascin-W was detectable in the majority of melanomas and their metastases, as well as in pancreas, kidney, and lung carcinomas. Comparing lung tumor samples and matching control tissues for each patient revealed a clear overexpression of tenascin-W in tumor tissues. Although the number of samples examined is too small to draw statistically significant conclusions, there seems to be a tendency for increased tenascin-W expression in higher grade tumors. Interestingly, in most tumor types, tenascin-W is also expressed in close proximity to blood vessels, as shown by CD31 co-staining of the samples.


The present study extends the tumor biomarker potential of tenascin-W to a broad range of solid tumors and shows its accessibility from the blood stream for potential therapeutic strategies.