Research Papers:

Roles of neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) in human cancer

Saverio Candido, Roberta Maestro, Jerry Polesel, Alessia Catania, Francesca Maira, Santo S. Signorelli, James A. McCubrey and Massimo Libra _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:1576-1594. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1738

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Saverio Candido1,2, Roberta Maestro3, Jerry Polesel2, Alessia Catania1, Francesca Maira1, Santo S. Signorelli4, James A. McCubrey5 and Massimo Libra1

1 Department of Bio-medical Sciences, Section of Pathology & Oncology, Laboratory of Translational Oncology & Functional Genomics, University of Catania, Catania, (Italy);

2 Epidemiology and Statistic Unit, CRO National Cancer Institute, Aviano, (Italy);

3 Unit of Experimental Oncology 1, CRO National Cancer Institute, Aviano, (Italy);

4 Department of Medical and Pediatric Sciences, Medical Angiology Unit; University of Catania, Catania (Italy);

5 Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Greenville, NC, (USA);


Massimo Libra, email:

Key words: NGAL, LCN2, Lipocalin 2, mRNA expression, cancer, biomarker, prognostic factor, metastasis, protein expression

Received: December 23, 2013 Accepted: January 30, 2014 Published: February 1, 2014


Cancer remains one of the major cause of death in the Western world. Although, it has been demonstrated that new therapies can improve the outcome of cancer patients, still many patients relapse after treatment. Therefore, there is a need to identify novel factors involved in cancer development and/or progression. Recently, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) has been suggested as a key player in different cancer types. Its oncogenic effect may be related to the complex NGAL/MMP-9. In the present study, NGAL was analyzed at both transcript and protein levels in different cancer types by analysing 38 public available microarray datasets and the Human Protein Atlas tool.

NGAL transcripts were significantly higher in the majority of solid tumors compared to the relative normal tissues for every dataset analyzed. Furthermore, concordance of NGAL at both mRNA and protein levels was observed for 6 cancer types including bladder, colorectal, liver, lung, ovarian, and pancreatic. All metastatic tumors showed a decrease of NGAL expression when compared to matched primary lesions.

According to these results, NGAL is a candidate marker for tumor growth in a fraction of solid tumors. Further investigations are required to elucidate the function of NGAL in tumor development and metastatic processes.

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