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01.12.2012 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

Molecular Cancer 1/2012

Focal overexpression of CEACAM6 contributes to enhanced tumourigenesis in head and neck cancer via suppression of apoptosis

Molecular Cancer > Ausgabe 1/2012
Sarina Cameron, Lilia Merida de Long, Mehlika Hazar-Rethinam, Eleni Topkas, Liliana Endo-Munoz, Andrew Cumming, Orla Gannon, Alexander Guminski, Nicholas Saunders
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1476-4598-11-74) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SC drafted the manuscript and performed in vitro growth and death assays. LMDL performed the animal experiments. MHR, ET and LEM performed immunohistochemistry and cloning experiments. AC and OG performed the drug toxicity studies. AG and NS supervised the project and contributed to the draft of manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Overexpression of CEACAM6 has been reported for a number of malignancies. However, the mechanism of how CEACAM6 contributes to cancer formation and its role in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) remains unclear. Therefore, we examined the role of CEACAM6 in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).


CEACAM6 expression was examined in normal squamous epithelia as well as a number of patient HNSCC samples and tumours derived from HNSCC cell lines injected into NOD/SCID mice. CEACAM6 expression was manipulated in HNSCC cell lines by shRNA-mediated CEACAM6 knockdown or virally-delivered overexpression of CEACAM6. The role of CEACAM6 in tumour growth and chemotherapeutic sensitivity was then assessed in vivo and in vitro respectively.


CEACAM6 expression was significantly increased in highly tumourigenic HNSCC cell lines when compared to poorly tumourigenic HNSCC cell lines. Moreover, HNSCC patient tumours demonstrated focal expression of CEACAM6. Functional investigation of CEACAM6, involving over-expression and knock down studies, demonstrated that CEACAM6 over-expression could enhance tumour initiating activity and tumour growth via activation of AKT and suppression of caspase-3 mediated cell death.


We report that CEACAM6 is focally overexpressed in a large fraction of human HNSCCs in situ. We also show that over-expression of CEACAM6 increases tumour growth and tumour initiating activity by suppressing PI3K/AKT-dependent apoptosis of HNSCC in a xenotransplant model of HNSCC. Finally, our studies indicate that foci of CEACAM6 expressing cells are selectively ablated by treatment of xenotransplant tumours with pharmacological inhibitors of PI3K/AKT in vivo.
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