For each patient, mRNA levels of genes in tumor samples were normalized to mRNA levels in normal mucosa. Descriptive statistics were reported as medians with interquartile ranges (IQR) for continuous variables and as whole numbers and percentages for categorical variables. Low and high levels of CSCs markers were obtained through the median of the mRNA expression levels in our cohort of patients. Associations between clinicopathological features of CRC patients and gene expression were analyzed with the Kruskal–Wallis and Mann–Whitney non-parametric tests. For the correlation analysis, the Pearson test was used after transforming the variables applying natural logarithms. All confidence intervals (CIs) were stated at the 95% level. Statistical significance was defined as p < 0.05. All statistical calculations were performed using SPSS software version 15.0 for Windows (IBM, Chicago, IL, USA).

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