Research Papers:

Oncofetal gene SALL4 and prognosis in cancer: A systematic review with meta-analysis

Lorenzo Nicole, Tiziana Sanavia, Nicola Veronese, Rocco Cappellesso, Claudio Luchini, Paolo Dabrilli and Ambrogio Fassina _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:22968-22979. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.14952

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Lorenzo Nicolè1,*, Tiziana Sanavia2,*, Nicola Veronese3, Rocco Cappellesso1,7, Claudio Luchini4,5,6, Paolo Dabrilli1, Ambrogio Fassina1

1Department of Medicine, Surgical Pathology & Cytopathology Unit, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

2Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

3National Research Council, Neuroscience Institute, Aging Branch, Padova, Italy

4Department of Pathology and Diagnostics, University and Hospital Trust of Verona, Verona, Italy

5ARC-NET Research Center, University and Hospital Trust of Verona, Verona, Italy

6Department of Pathology, Santa Chiara Hospital, Trento, Italy

7Pathological Anatomy and Histology Unit, Veneto Institute of Oncology, Padova, Italy

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Ambrogio Fassina, email: [email protected]

Keywords: SALL4, cancer, prognosis, meta-analysis, targeted therapy

Received: April 05, 2016    Accepted: January 06, 2017    Published: February 01, 2017


The Spalt-Like Transcription Factor 4 (SALL4) oncogene plays a central function in embryo-fetal development and is absent in differentiated tissues. Evidence suggests that it can be reactivated in several cancers worsening the prognosis. We aimed at investigating the risk associated with SALL4 reactivation for all-cause mortality and recurrence in cancer using the current literature. A PubMed and SCOPUS search until 1st September 2016 was performed, focusing on perspective studies reporting prognostic parameters in cancer data. In addition, 17 datasets of different cancer types from The Cancer Genome Atlas were considered. A total of 9,947 participants across 40 cohorts, followed-up for about 5 years on average, were analyzed comparing patients showing SALL4 presence (SALL4+, n = 1,811) or absence (SALL4-, n = 8,136). All data were summarised using risk ratios (RRs) for the number of deaths/recurrences and hazard ratios (HRs) for the time-dependent risk related to SALL4+, adjusted for potential confounders. SALL4+ significantly increased overall mortality (RR = 1.34, 95% confidence intervals (CI)=1.21-1.48, p<0.0001, I2=66%; HR=1.4; 95%CI: 1.19-1.65; p<0.0001; I2=63%) and recurrence of disease (RR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.1-1.42, p=0.0006, I2=62%); HR=1.52; 95% CI: 1.22-1.89, p=0.0002; I2=69%) compared to SALL4-. Moreover, SALL4 remained significantly associated with poor prognosis even using HRs adjusted for potential confounders (overall mortality: HR=1.4; 95%CI: 1.19-1.65; p<0.0001; I2=63%; recurrence of disease: HR=1.52; 95% CI: 1.22-1.89, p=0.0002; I2=69%). These results suggest that SALL4 expression increases both mortality and recurrence of cancer, confirming this gene as an important prognostic marker and a potential target for personalized medicine.

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