p53 in head and neck cancer: functional consequences and environmental implications of TP53 mutations

Head Neck Oncol. 2010 Dec 15;2:36. doi: 10.1186/1758-3284-2-36.


Background: Although TP53 mutations in human tumours generally have been extensively studied, the significance of p53 in the aetiology of head and neck cancers is still incompletely characterized. In recent years, considerable interest has been focused on mutant forms of p53, the abnormal protein product of TP53 alleles with missense mutation that often accumulate in cancer cells.

Methods: We compared the nature of TP53 mutations in primary 46 head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) analyzed by PCR-SSCP and sequencing, immunohistochemistry, and using structural information available at IARC p53 database.

Results: Sequencing confirmed 36 TP53 mutations in 23 tumours of the 39 mutations in 26 tumours found by PCR-SSCP. Only half (17) putatively affect the function of p53 protein. Of these 8 were in the L2 domain, three affected the LSH motif and three the L3 domain. Three were in other domains. Codon 259 (GAC > GAA) which is a very rare mutation was found in 4 samples in our study. There were indications of p53 aberrations being associated with the combined effect of smoking, alcohol and work history. Patients with a negative family history of cancer had more often TP53 mutations than patients with a positive family history (71% vs. 46%).

Conclusions: Our study contributes to the knowledge of cumulative chemical exposure and p53 aberrations in head and neck cancer, an area where literature is scarce.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / chemically induced
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Genes, p53*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation, Missense*
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Prognosis
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53