Overexpression of ALDH is associated with cancer stem-like features and poor cancer prognosis. High ALDH activity has been observed in cancer stem-like cells. There are a total of 19 human ALDH isoforms, all of which are associated with reducing oxidative stress and protecting cells from damage. However, it is unknown whether all ALDHs are associated with poor cancer prognosis and which ones play a significant role in cancer progression. In this study, we used RNA sequencing data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to evaluate the differential expression of 19 ALDH isoforms in 5 common human cancers. The 19 ALDH genes were analyzed with an integrating meta-analysis of cancer prognosis. Genotyping and next-generation RNA sequencing for 30 pairwise samples of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma were performed and compared with the TCGA cohort. The analysis showed that each ALDH isoform had a specific differential expression pattern, most of which were related to prognosis in human cancer. A lower expression of ALDH2 in the tumor was observed, which was independent from the ALDH2 rs671 SNP variant and the expression of other mitochondria-associated protein coding genes. This study provides new insight into the association between ALDH expression and cancer prognosis.
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