Human kallikrein 13 (hK13; encoded by the KLK13 gene) is a secreted serine protease expressed in endocrine tissues, including the prostate, testis, breast, and ovary. We have previously reported steroid hormone regulation of the KLK13 gene and its clinical value as a marker of favorable prognosis in breast cancer at the mRNA level. We hypothesized that hK13 may represent a potential biomarker for ovarian carcinomas.
Using a newly developed enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), hK13 levels were quantified in 131 ovarian tumor extracts and correlated with various clinicopathological variables and outcome (progression-free survival [PFS], overall survival [OS]), over a median follow-up period of 42 months.
hK13 concentration in ovarian tumor cytosols ranged from 0 to 18.4 ng/mg of total protein. An optimal cutoff value of 0.13 ng/mg (67(th) percentile) was selected, based on the ability of hK13 values to predict the PFS of the study population, to categorize tumors as hK13-positive or negative. Women with hK13-positive tumors most often had early stage (stage I/II) disease, no residual tumor after surgery and optimal debulking success (P <.05). Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses revealed that patients with hK13-positive tumors had a significantly longer PFS and OS than hK13-negative patients (P <.05). Kaplan-Meier survival curves further confirmed a reduced risk of relapse and death in women with hK13-positive tumors (P =.007 and P =.002, respectively).
These results indicate that hK13 is an independent marker of favorable prognosis in ovarian cancer.