Background: Prognostic biomarkers aim to improve on the current inadequate method of histological assessment to identify patients with oral epithelial dysplasia at greatest risk of malignant transformation. We aimed to assess the prognostic ability of six protein biomarkers linked to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway, including three tetraspanins, in a large multicentre oral dysplasia cohort.
Methods: One hundred and forty-eight cases with varying degrees of epithelial dysplasia underwent immunohistochemical assessment for CD9, CD151, CD82, EGFR, Her-2, and COX-2. Scoring was performed independently by two observers. Univariate analyses using both logistic and Cox regression models and a multivariate regression were performed.
Results: Malignant progression was significantly greater in those cases with decreased expression of CD9 (P=0.02), and increased expression of CD151 (P=0.02), EGFR (P=0.04), and COX-2 (P=0.003). Histological grade (P=0.0002) and morphology (P=0.03) were also prognostic, whereas smoking and alcohol were not. The optimal combination by backward-variable selection was of histological grade (hazard ratio (HR) 1.64; 95% CI 1.12, 2.40), COX-2 overexpression (HR 1.12; 1.02, 1.24) and CD9 underexpression (HR 0.88; 0.80, 0.97). CD82 and Her-2 demonstrated no prognostic ability.
Conclusion: This is the first study of the expression and prognostic potential of the tetraspanins in oral dysplasia. A combination of certain biomarkers with clinical factors appeared to improve the accuracy of determining the risk of malignancy in individuals with oral dysplasia. These findings may also offer potential new therapeutic approaches for this condition.