Molecular pathology in basal cell cancer with p53 as a genetic marker

Oncogene. 1997 Aug 28;15(9):1059-67. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1201435.


Human basal cell cancer (BCC) has unique growth characteristics with virtual inability to metastasize. We investigated clonality and genetic progression using p53 mutations as marker. Sampling was done through microdissection of frozen immunohistochemically stained 16 microm slices of tumors. From 11 BCC tumors 78 samples were analysed. Direct DNA sequencing of exons 5-8 was performed, haplotypes were determined after cloning of p53 exons and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) ascertained by microsatellite analysis. All tumors had p53 mutations and in a majority both p53 alleles were affected, commonly through missense mutations. Microdissection of small parts (50-100 cells) of individual tumors showed BCC to be composed of a dominant cell clone and prone to genetic progression with appearance of subclones with a second and even third p53 mutation. Samples from normal immunohistochemically negative epidermis always showed wild type sequence, except for a case of previously unknown germline p53 mutation. Our analysis also included p53 immunoreactive patches i.e. morphologically normal epidermis with a compact pattern of p53 immunoreactivity. Mutations within those were never the same as in the adjacent BCC. This detailed study of only one gene thus uncovered a remarkable heterogeneity within a tumor category famous for its benign clinical behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dissection
  • Epidermis / chemistry
  • Epidermis / pathology
  • Female
  • Genes, p53*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Basal Cell / chemistry
  • Neoplasms, Basal Cell / genetics*
  • Neoplasms, Basal Cell / pathology*
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Genetic Markers