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Monocarboxylate transporter 4 (MCT4) is the main exporter of lactate out of cells. It is also a critical component in the glycolytic metabolism of cancer cells. In this study, stromal MCT4 in oral SCC was correlated with risk of recurrence (ROR), extent of primary tumor (pT) and nodal metastasis (pN), perineural invasion (PNI), lymphovascular invasion (LVI), HPV status, extracapsular extension (ECE) and positive margin.


Clinical data were collected for 86 consecutive patients with oral HNSCC. Tissue microarrays (TMA) were constructed from paraffin blocks of resection specimens and stained for MCT4. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining was assessed and quantified by digital image analysis with Aperio software. Using a co-localization algorithm we assessed the intensity of staining and the percentage of positive cells in the tumoral stromal cells. Correlations of MCT4 expression with clinicopathological features and survival were studied.


Increased IHC staining for MCT4 was strongly associated with an increased risk of recurrence, OR 1.96 (95%CI: 1.17-3.40), presence of PNI, OR 2.25 (95%CI: 1.33-3.95), higher pT, OR 1.68 (95%CI: 0.99-2.89), higher pN, OR 2.07 (95%CI: 1.25-3.57) and presence of LVI, OR 2.21 (95%CI: 1.11-4.67). We didn’t find any significant association between stromal MCT4 expression and HPV status, presence of ECE or positive margin.


This study demonstrates that MCT4, a marker of glycolysis in cancer-associated stroma, is highly expressed in oral SCC. The IHC staining pattern of stromal MCT4 suggests that high MCT4 expression appears to be a useful marker for tumor progression and prognosis. We propose MCT4 serves as a new prognostic factor in oral SCC and can act as a potential therapeutic target marker considering pharmacological development of MCT4 inhibitors.