MET ectodomain shedding is associated with poor disease-free survival of patients diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma

Maria J De Herdt, Senada Koljenović, Berdine van der Steen, Stefan M Willems, Rob Noorlag, Daan Nieboer, Jose A Hardillo, Aaron M Gruver, Wei Zeng, Ling Liu, Robert J Baatenburg de Jong, Leendert H Looijenga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Ectodomain shedding unleashes the aggressive nature of the MET oncogene product. Using specific C- and N-terminal MET antibodies (D1C2 and A2H2-3), MET protein status (i.e., no MET, decoy MET, transmembranous C-terminal MET with or without the ectodomain) was investigated in oral squamous cell carcinoma. For the cancers showing transmembranous C-terminal MET, the impact of ectodomain shedding on prognosis was investigated. To examine ectodomain shedding, reduced lysates of oral squamous cell carcinoma cell lines were immunoblotted using D1C2 and an ELISA was performed on culture media using A2H2-3. In addition, reduced lysates of fresh frozen tissues of 30 oral squamous cell carcinoma were immunoblotted using D1C2 and immunohistochemistry was performed on corresponding formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues using both antibodies on parallel sections. To examine MET protein status, differences between membranous D1C2 and A2H2-3 immunoreactivities were scored using parallel tissue microarray sections representing 156 oral squamous cell carcinoma. The prognostic value of ectodomain shedding was examined using Cox regression analysis for disease-free survival and overall survival. Ectodomain shedding was observed in all cell lines, 43% (n = 13) of fresh frozen and 50% (n = 15) of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded cancers (27% overlap, n = 8). The tissue microarray showed no MET in 23% (n = 36), decoy MET in 9% (n = 14), and transmembranous C-terminal MET in 68% (n = 106) of examined cancers. Within the latter group, ectodomain shedding occurs in 36% (n = 38) of the cases and is independently associated with poor disease-free survival (HR = 2.41; 95% CI, 1.35-4.30 and P = 0.003)-though not overall survival (HR = 1.64; 95% CI, 0.92-2.94 and P = 0.095)-after correcting for factors known to influence survival. In conclusion, MET ectodomain shedding occurs in transmembranous C-terminal MET positive oral squamous cell carcinoma and is independently associated with disease-free survival. These findings might aid in designing companion diagnostics for targeted therapies directed against MET.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1032
Number of pages18
JournalModern pathology : an official journal of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Inc
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Humans
  • Mouth Neoplasms/metabolism
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-met/metabolism
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck/metabolism
  • Survival Rate


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