Background: c-Met relies on CD44v6 for its activation and signaling in several cancer cell lines. However, the correlation of c-Met and CD44v6 expression and its biological significance in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) remains unknown. Methods: Expression of c-Met and CD44v6 was examined by immunohistochemistry (IHC) in 147 ESCC specimens. We analyzed the impact of c-Met and CD44v6 expression on clinicopathological parameters, including chemoresistance or prognosis in ESCC. Results: High expression of c-Met and CD44v6 in cancerous lesions was identified in 49.7% and 50.3% of all patients, respectively. The c-Met-high group comprised more advanced pT and pM stages than the c-Met-low group. In addition, more patients in the c-Met-high group received neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NACT) than the c-Met-low group (64.4% vs. 43.2%, P = 0.010). On the other hand, the CD44v6-high group was associated with more advanced pT/pN stages and a poorer clinical response to NACT (response rate 53.5% vs. 77.8%, P = 0.025) than the CD44v6-low group. Double-positive immunostaining of c-Met and CD44v6 was identified in 28.6% of all cases, and multivariate analysis of overall survival (OS) identified them (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% confidence interval 1.03–3.04, P = 0.038) as independent prognostic factors in addition to pN and pM stage. Conclusions: c-Met/CD44v6 were associated with tumor progression or chemoresistance. Double-positive expression of c-Met and CD44v6 negatively impacted patient prognosis in ESCC, implying that c-Met and CD44v6 are candidates for targeted therapy in ESCC.
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