Experimental animal models have demonstrated that angiogenesis is essential for tumour progression, whilst sustained tumour growth requires a positive balance between tumour cell proliferation and cell death (apoptosis). The aim of this study was to determine the relative contribution of apoptosis, proliferation, and angiogenesis to disease progression in the oral mucosa. Histological sections of 47 archival specimens were examined; these included four groups of oral tissues: normal mucosa (n=12), moderate dysplasia (n=11) severe dysplasia (n=6), and squamous cell carcinoma (n=18). Apoptotic cells were visualized by in-situ end-labelling of DNA, proliferative cells by staining with Ki-67 antibody, and blood vessels with von Willebrand factor (vWF) antibody. One-way analysis of variance showed that indices of apoptosis (AI), proliferation (PI), and angiogenesis (vascularity) increased significantly with disease progression from normal oral mucosa, through dysplasia, to carcinoma (p<0.0001 for every index). The increase from normal mucosa to moderate dysplasia was significant for PI and vascularity, but not for AI. In contrast, the increase from dysplasia to carcinoma was significant for AI and vascularity, but not for PI. These data suggest that disease progression in the oral mucosa is accompanied by angiogenesis and increases in both epithelial proliferation and apoptosis. Net epithelial growth results from proliferation starting earlier and proceeding at a higher rate than apoptosis.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.