The epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is closely correlated with the occurrence and development of various cancers of epithelial origin. This study tested, for the first time, the ability of EpCAM aptamer SYL3C to detect EpCAM expression in 170 cases of esophageal cancer (EC) and precancerous lesions, as well as 20 cases of EC series samples, using immunofluorescence imaging analysis. Corresponding antibodies were used as control. EpCAM overexpression was 98% in both esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) and esophageal adenocarcinoma (EACA) and 100% in metastasis, but no EpCAM overexpression was detected in undifferentiated EC (UEC). Significant differences were noted among various stages of differentiation (p < 0.05) with the degree of differentiation inversely correlated with the expression of EpCAM. Overexpressed EpCAM was detected in severe dysplasia, but negative in mild to moderate dysplasia and benign esophageal lesions. In a competitive binding experiment, EpCAM aptamer generated a staining pattern similar to that of antibody, but the binding sites with EpCAM were different. Based on these results, it can be concluded that EpCAM is suitable for use as an EC biomarker, therapeutic target, and effective parameter for tumor transfer and prognosis evaluation by aptamer SYL3C staining.
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