Suitability of CD133 as a Marker for Cancer Stem Cells in Melanoma

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.

2 Department of Oral, Craniomaxillofacial and Facial Plastic Surgery, University Hospital of Leipzig, Germany.


Objectives: CD133 is considered a cancer stem cell (CSC) marker in various malignancies; however, its role as a biomarker of malignant melanoma remains controversial. The present study was conducted to evaluate the suitability of CD133 surface antigen as a CSC marker in melanoma. Methods: Human melanoma cells were fractionally separated by magnetic cell separation depending on the CD133 phenotype and transplanted into immunodeficient mice to evaluate their tumorigenic capacity. Furthermore, the time until the development of a palpable tumor and the growth rate were measured, and the final tumor volume was assessed after 8 weeks. The immunohistochemical expression of CD133 in the induced neoplasia was then compared using histomorphometry. Results: Notably, neoplasms were induced in all the groups (n = 48), including in the CD133-negative group. Tumors induced by unsorted cells had the largest volume (p = 0.014) but were detected significantly later in this group (p ≤ 0.001). Interestingly, all explanted tumors expressed CD133, with no significant differences among groups. Conclusions: In contrast to the results obtained in prior studies, the suitability of CD133 as a CSC marker could not be demonstrated. The current encouraging progress in targeted therapy for malignant melanoma highlights the need to identify more effective targets.


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