PAX5 gene as a novel methylation marker that predicts both clinical outcome and cisplatin sensitivity in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Therapeutic strategies for esophageal cancer largely depend on histopathological assessment. To select appropriate treatments of individual patients, we examined the background molecular characteristics of tumor malignancy and sensitivity to multidisciplinary therapy. Seventy-eight surgically-resected esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) cases during 2001–2013 were examined. PAX5, a novel gene methylation marker in ESCC, was evaluated in the specimens, as methylation of this gene was identified as an extremely tumor-specific event in squamous cell carcinogenesis of head and neck. PAX5 methylation status was evaluated by quantitative MSP (QMSP) assays. Mean QMSP value was 15.7 (0–136.3) in ESCCs and 0.3 (0–8.6) in adjacent normal tissues (P < 0.001). The 78 cases were divided into high QMSP value (high QMSP, n = 26) and low QMSP value (low QMSP, n = 52). High QMSP cases were significantly associated with downregulated PAX5 expression (P = 0.040), and showed significantly poor recurrence-free survival [Hazard Ratio (HR) = 2.84; P = 0.005; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.39–5.81] and overall survival (HR = 3.23; P = 0.002; 95%CI: 1.52–7.01) in multivariable analyses with histopathological factors. PAX5-knockdown cells exhibited significantly increased cell proliferation and cisplatin resistance. PAX5 gene methylation can predict poor survival outcomes and cisplatin sensitivity in ESCCs and could be a useful diagnostic tool for cancer therapy selection.