Background: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for treatment failure. However, their identification and roles in resistance are not well established in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).Methods:Three HNSCC cell lines (FaDu, Detroit562 and BICR6) were treated with cisplatin or radiation. Cell surface antigens were analysed by LyoPlate, a novel cell surface antigen array. The expression levels of antigens highly expressed after treatments were further compared between cisplatin-resistant Detroit562 cells and its parental line. Association of the candidate antigen with CSCs properties, namely sphere formation and in vivo tumourigenicity, was also examined.Results:CD10, CD15s, CD146 and CD282 were upregulated across the treated cell lines, while the increased expression of CD10 was prominent in the cisplatin-resistant cell line. Isolation mediated by FACS revealed that the CD10-positive subpopulation was more refractory to cisplatin, fluorouracil and radiation than the CD10-negative subpopulation. It also showed an increased ability to form spheres in vitro and tumours in vivo. Moreover, the CD10-positive subpopulation expressed the CSC marker OCT3/4 at a higher level than that in the CD10-negative subpopulation.Conclusions:CD10 is associated with therapeutic resistance and CSC-like properties of HNSCC. CD10 may serve as a target molecule in the treatment of refractory HNSCC.
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