p53 immunoexpression in non-malignant oral mucosa adjacent to oral squamous cell carcinoma: potential consequences for clinical management

J Pathol. 2000 Jun;191(2):132-7. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(200006)191:2<132::AID-PATH605>3.0.CO;2-E.


p53 is a tumour suppressor gene encoding a protein whose function is impaired in a very large proportion of human cancers. The objectives of this study were to determine the natural history of p53 alterations during stages of oral carcinogenesis, by comparing p53 immunoexpression in oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs), their non-malignant adjacent mucosa, and respective metastases; and to define the potential practical consequences for clinical management of p53 staining in the non-malignant adjacent mucosa. Forty-two samples of non-malignant mucosa adjacent to OSCCs, the respective carcinomas, and six lymph node metastases derived from six of the OSCCs were investigated for p53 protein expression by immunohistochemistry. Seven out of 42 (17%) non-malignant mucosal samples immediately adjacent to OSCC showed suprabasal p53 staining and this was significantly associated with moderate/severe dysplasia (p=0.02). In six of these cases (86%), the respective carcinoma showed p53 immunoexpression in more than 50% of the neoplastic cells and in the remaining case, p53 immunoexpression was found in more than 25% of the neoplastic cells. In all p53-negative carcinomas that showed p53 immunoexpression in the non-malignant adjacent mucosa, p53 staining was never detected above the basal cell layer. Lymph node metastases showed the same patterns of p53 immunoexpression as the carcinomas from which they were derived. When suprabasal p53 staining is present in non-malignant mucosa immediately adjacent to OSCCs, this suggests stable p53 alterations which are maintained upon progression to overt malignancy. The immunostaining in non-malignant mucosa of the resection margins of OSCCs might be a valuable predictor for local recurrences and may therefore have implications for the management of patients who have received surgical treatment for OSCC.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53