Research Papers:

Thymocyte selection-associated high mobility group box gene (TOX) is aberrantly over-expressed in mycosis fungoides and correlates with poor prognosis

Yuanshen Huang, Ivan V. Litvinov, Yang Wang, Ming-Wan Su, Ping Tu, Xiaoyan Jiang, Thomas S. Kupper, Jan P. Dutz, Denis Sasseville and Youwen Zhou _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:4418-4425. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2031

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Yuanshen Huang1,2,3,*, Ivan V. Litvinov4,*, Yang Wang5,*, Ming-Wan Su1,2, Ping Tu5, Xiaoyan Jiang3, Thomas S. Kupper6, Jan P. Dutz2,7, Denis Sasseville4 and Youwen Zhou1,2,7

1 Molecular Medicine Lab and Chieng Genomics Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2 Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

3 Terry Fox Laboratory, British Columbia Cancer Agency and Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

4 Division of Dermatology, McGill University Health Center, Montreal, QC, Canada

5 Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, China

6 Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Skin Disease Research Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA

7 Dermatologic Oncology Program, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, BC, Canada

* These authors contributed equally to this work


Youwen Zhou, email:

Denis Sasseville, email:

Keywords: TOX, mycosis fungoides, cutaneous T cell lymphoma, marker, prognostic factor

Received: April 2, 2014 Accepted: May 27, 2014 Published: May 28, 2014


Mycosis fungoides (MF) often mimics the common chronic inflammatory skin diseases and is difficult to be diagnosed with certainty, partly because of the lack of well-characterized molecular markers. Previously, we discovered that TOX, a key T cell development regulator,was aberrantly over-expressed in early stage MF. In the current multi-center study involving two independent patient cohorts, we determined the prevalence of TOX over-expression in the full spectrum of MF skin biopsies, and tested if TOX expression levels correlated with long term clinical outcomes. We examined TOX expression levels in 113 MF biopsies. We found that the MF biopsies expressed higher TOX mRNA than the controls in both cohorts (17.9 fold in cohort 1, P = 0.002; 5.8 fold in cohort 2, P < 0.0001). In addition, thicker skin lesions such as plaques and tumors expressed even higher TOX levels than thinner patches. Further, TOX over-expression differentiated MF from the controls (area under the curve [AUC]=0.87, P < 0.0001). Finally, high TOX mRNA levels correlated with increased risks of disease progression (P = 0.003) and disease-specific mortality (P = 0.008). In conclusion, TOX may be a useful marker for improving MF diagnosis and prognostication.

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