CTEN induces tumour cell invasion and survival and is prognostic in radiotherapy-treated head and neck cancer

Jason C. Fleming*, Jeongmin Woo, Karwan Moutasim, Christopher J. Hanley, Steven J. Frampton, Oliver Wood, Matthew Ward, Christopher H. Woelk, Christian H. Ottensmeier, Sassan Hafizi, Dae Kim, Gareth J. Thomas*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a heterogenous disease treated with surgery and/or (chemo) radiotherapy, but up to 50% of patients with late-stage disease develop locoregional recurrence. Determining the mechanisms underpinning treatment resistance could identify new therapeutic targets and aid treatment selection. C-terminal tensin-like (CTEN) is a member of the tensin family, upregulated in several cancers, although its expression and function in HNSCC are unknown. We found that CTEN is commonly upregulated in HNSCC, particularly HPV−ve tumours. In vitro CTEN was upregulated in HPV−ve (n = 5) and HPV+ve (n = 2) HNSCC cell lines. Stable shRNA knockdown of CTEN in vivo significantly reduced tumour growth (SCC-25), and functional analyses in vitro showed that CTEN promoted tumour cell invasion, colony formation and growth in 3D-culture (SCC-25, Detroit 562). RNA sequencing of SCC-25 cells following CTEN siRNA knockdown identified 349 differentially expressed genes (logFC > 1, p < 0.05). Gene ontology analysis highlighted terms relating to cell locomotion and apoptosis, consistent with in vitro findings. A membrane-based antibody array confirmed that CTEN regulated multiple apoptosis-associated proteins, including HSP60 and cleaved caspase-3. Notably, in a mixed cohort of HPV+ve and HPV−ve HNSCC patients (n = 259), we found a significant, independent negative association of CTEN with prognosis, limited to those patients treated with (chemo)radiotherapy, not surgery, irrespective of human papillomavirus (HPV) status. These data show that CTEN is commonly upregulated in HNSCC and exerts several functional effects. Its potential role in modulating apoptotic response to therapy suggests utility as a predictive biomarker or radio-sensitising target.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2963
Number of pages21
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2020


  • head and neck cancer
  • tensin
  • CTEN
  • invasion
  • apoptosis
  • radiotherapy
  • biomarker
  • human papillomavirus
  • RCUK
  • MRC
  • MR/L017172/1


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