RUNX1T1: A Novel Predictor of Liver Metastasis in Primary Pancreatic Endocrine Neoplasms


Objectives— Using gene expression profiling on frozen primary pancreatic endocrine tumors (PETs), we discovered RUNX1T1 as a leading candidate progression gene. This study was designed (1) to validate the differential expression of RUNX1T1 protein on independent test sets of metastatic and nonmetastatic PETs and (2) to determine if RUNX1T1 underexpression in primary tumors was predictive of liver metastases.

Methods— Immunohistochemical expression of RUNX1T1 protein was quantified using Allred scores on archival metastatic (n = 13) and non-metastatic (n = 24) primary adult PET tissues using custom-designed tissue microarrays. Wilcoxon rank sum/Fisher exact tests and receiver operating characteristic curves were used in the data analysis.

Results— Median RUNX1T1 scores were 2 (2–7) and 6 (3–8) in metastatic versus nonmetastatic primaries (P < 0.0001). Eleven of 13 metastatic and 1 of 24 nonmetastatic primaries exhibited RUNX1T1-scores of 4 or less (P < 0.0001). Low RUNX1T1 expression was highly associated with hepatic metastases (P < 0.0001), whereas conventional histological criteria (Ki-67 index, mitotic rate, necrosis) were weakly associated with metastases (P = 0.08–0.15). Considering RUNX1T1 expression (Allred) score of 4 or less to be predictive, the sensitivity to predict hepatic metastases was 85%, with a specificity of 96%.

Conclusions— RUNX1T1 protein is underexpressed in well-differentiated metastatic primary PETs relative to nonmetastatic primaries and emerges as a promising novel biomarker for prediction of liver metastases.

Reprints: Aejaz Nasir, MD, MPhil, FCAP, Diagnostic and Experimental Medicine, Biomarker Sciences Group, Eli Lilly & Company, 893 South Delaware St, Indianapolis, IN 46225 (
J.H. is a joining first author.
This study was presented in part at the Annual Symposium of the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society, Charlotte, NC, October 1–3, 2009 (A.N.).
The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.