Activation of p53 Gene Expression in Premalignant Lesions during Head and Neck Ttomorigenesis

Dong M. Shin, Waun K. Hong, Jhingook Kim, Jack A. Roth, Thoracic Surgery, Jae Y. Ro, Jason Hittelman, Walter N. Hittelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

287 Scopus citations


With the goal of identifying a potential intermediate biomarker in the multistep process of head and neck cancer development, we conducted immunohistochemical analyses for p53 expression in 33 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas whose tissue sections contained adjacent normal epithelium, hyperplastic, and/or dysplastic lesions. Fifteen of 33 (45%) squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck expressed p53, but none of four normal control patients (cancer-free nonsmokers) expressed detectable p53 in oral mucosa specimens. To determine when p53 expression is initiated during head and neck tumorigenesis, we examined the normal and premalignant lesions adjacent to the tumors. Five of 24 (21%) samples of normal epithelium adjacent to tumors, 7 of 24 (29%) samples of hyperplasia, and 9 of 20 (45%) samples of dysplasia expressed p53. Quantitative image analysis demonstrated not only a gradual increase in the amount of p53 expression as tissue abnormalities progressed but also a topological change in expression. Whereas p53 expression, when present, was limited to the basal layer in normal epithelium adjacent to tumor; the expression of p53 expanded into the parabasal and superficial layers in hyperplasia and dysplasia. We conclude that p53 expression can be altered in very early phases of head and neck tumorigenesis. Thus, it may be an excellent candidate for risk assessment and may serve as an intermediate biomarker in chemoprevention trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-326
Number of pages6
JournalCancer research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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