In cancer biology, the architectural concept “form follows function” is reflected by cell morphology, migration, and epithelial-mesenchymal transition protein pattern. In vivo, features of epithelial-mesenchymal transition have been associated with tumor budding, which correlates significantly with patient outcome. Hereby, the majority of tumor buds are not truly detached but still connected to a major tumor mass. For detailed insights into the different tumor bud types and the process of tumor budding, we quantified tumor cells according to histomorphological and immunohistological epithelial-mesenchymal transition characteristics. Three-dimensional reconstruction from adenocarcinomas (pancreatic, colorectal, lung, and ductal breast cancers) was performed as published. Tumor cell morphology and epithelial-mesenchymal transition characteristics (represented by zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1 and E-Cadherin) were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively in a three-dimensional context. Tumor buds were classified into main tumor mass, connected tumor bud, and isolated tumor bud. Cell morphology and epithelial-mesenchymal transition marker expression were assessed for each tumor cell. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition characteristics between isolated tumor bud and connected tumor bud demonstrated no significant differences or trends. Tumor cell count correlated significantly with epithelial-mesenchymal transition and histomorphological characteristics. Regression curve analysis revealed initially a loss of membranous E-Cadherin, followed by expression of cytoplasmic E-Cadherin and subsequent expression of nuclear zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1. Morphologic changes followed later in this sequence. Our data demonstrate that connected and isolated tumor buds are equal concerning immunohistochemical epithelial-mesenchymal transition characteristics and histomorphology. Our data also give an insight in the process of tumor budding. While there is a notion that the epithelial-mesenchymal transition zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1-E-Cadherin cascade is initiated by zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 1, our results are contrary and outline other possible pathways influencing the regulation of E-Cadherin.
Research Areas and Centers
- Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)