Site-specific gene expression patterns in oral cancer

Gesche Frohwitter*, Horst Buerger, Eberhard Korsching, Paul J. van Diest, Johannes Kleinheinz, Thomas Fillies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the most prevalent malignant tumours within the head and neck. Evidence exists that distinct genes are differentially regulated in SCCs of the oral cavity compared to other head and neck regions. Given this background, the aim of this study was to investigate whether such tumour site-specific gene expression can also be observed in different localizations within the oral cavity. Methods: Using tissue microarrays (TMAs), we investigated 76 SCCs of the floor of the mouth, 49 SCCs of the tongue and 68 SCCs of other anatomic regions within the oral cavity. The expression of 17 genes involved in cell cycle and growth control (p16, p21, p27, p53, cyclin D1, EGFR, c-kit, bcl-6), cell adhesion (alpha-, beta-, and gamma-catenin), and apoptosis/stress response genes (Hif-1-alpha, Glut 1, CA IX, caspase, hsp70, XIAP) were investigated by means of immunohistochemistry. The data were subjected to chi2, interdependency and Kaplan-Meier analysis. Results: Our study suggests a remote difference in the site-specific gene expression patterns of oral cancer. X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) showed a significantly higher expression (p<0.05) in SCCs of the floor of the mouth compared to SCCs of the tongue and other locations within the oral cavity. The increased XIAP expression was further associated with significantly decreased overall survival in all cases of SCCs of the oral cavity (p<0.05). Expression levels of p53, CA IX, beta-catenin, Hif-1-alpha, and c-kit were also observed to be inversely related between SCCs of the floor of the mouth and those of the tongue respectively, although these differences did not reach statistical significance. Overall and event-free survival did not differ in patients with T1/T2/N0 SCCs according to tumour localization. Conclusion: In summary, the protein expression patterns of SCCs of the oral cavity suggest the existence of a molecular and morphological spectrum of SCCs in the oral cavity. In particular the expression pattern of XIAP indicates distinct gene expression patterns between carcinomas of the floor of the mouth and oral tongue cancer. Further studies are needed to identify possible tumour site-specific factors that influence patient prognosis and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalHead and Face Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2017


  • Location
  • Oral cavity
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Tumour biology


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