Basal cell adenocarcinoma of the salivary glands: comparison with basal cell adenoma through assessment of cell proliferation, apoptosis, and expression of p53 and bcl-2

Cancer. 1998 Feb 1;82(3):439-47.


Background: Basal cell adenocarcinoma (BCAC) of the salivary gland is a rare tumor and recently described entity. Eleven cases of BCAC are presented here and compared with basal cell adenoma (BCA) through assessment of cell proliferative activity, apoptosis, and expression of p53, bcl-2, and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) because these two tumors show close similarity in some cytologic and architectural characteristics.

Methods: Formalin fixed, paraffin embedded sections of 11 cases of BCAC and 9 cases of BCA, selected from the authors' files of 1851 primary tumors of the major salivary gland, were examined using immunostaining for Ki-67 (MIB-1), p53, bcl-2, and EGFR. In addition, apoptosis was determined by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-digoxigenin nick end labeling.

Results: The incidence of BCAC was 0.6% among patients with major salivary gland tumors in the current series. Nine cases of BCAC arose in the parotid gland and two were of submandibular gland origin. Approximately 50% of the patients had recurrences, but no patient developed metastases or died of disease. Vascular involvement (75%), perineural invasion (36%), and necrosis (45%) were common features. Cell proliferative activity, including mitotic count, Ki-67 labeling index (LI), and apoptotic index were significantly higher in BCAC than BCA. More than four mitotic figures per ten high-power fields or a Ki-67 LI > 5% appeared to be limited to cases of BCAC. Considering those cases expressing p53 or EGFR in > 10% of tumor cells as positive, 6 of the 11 BCAC cases were positive for p53 and 3 were positive for EGFR. In contrast, all BCA cases were negative for p53 and EGFR. Although all cases of BCA were strongly positive for bcl-2 (> 50% of tumor cells), 3 of 11 cases of BCAC were completely negative.

Conclusions: BCAC is a rare salivary gland tumor with a relatively high recurrence rate. Examination of cell proliferation, apoptosis, and expression of p53, bcl-2, and EGFR were found to be useful in distinguishing malignant basal cell tumors from their benign counterparts arising in the salivary gland.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / chemistry
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Adenoma / chemistry
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Division
  • ErbB Receptors / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mitotic Index
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / analysis*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis*


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • ErbB Receptors