BACKGROUND: Although many histopathologic characteristics of oral squamous cell carcinoma (O-SCC) have been identified as prognostic factors, accurate, and unequivocal factors have not been clearly identified. The purpose of this study was to evaluate a potential association between the histologic grade of malignancy at the deep invasive front and the expression of Ki-67 antigen and p53 protein in O-SCC. METHODS: The expression of Ki-67 antigen and p53 at the invasive tumor front area of O-SCC was examined by immunohistochemistry of archived tissue from 62 cases. The mean age of patients was 60.7 years (range: 37-89) and the male-female ratio was 1.6:1 (38 men, 24 women). There were 20, 17, 14, and 11 cases classified as stage I to stage IV, respectively. The correlation between the intensity of immunostaining for Ki-67 antigen and p53 and the histologic grade of malignancy at the deep invasive front (invasive front grade, IFG) was analyzed. The expression of Ki-67 antigen and p53 in normal oral epithelia (10 cases) was also investigated. RESULTS: The mean Ki-67 labeling index (LI) in the O-SCC samples was 32.8 ± 12.0% (n = 62). The mean total score of IFG (IFG score) was 9.1 ± 2.7 points (n = 62). There was a significant linear correlation between the IFG score and the Ki-67 antigen (γ = 0.651, R2 = 0.596, P < 0.0001). Of 50 tumors examined, 27 (54.0%) exhibited p53-positive nuclear immunostaining. The staining patterns for Ki-67 antigen and p53 were similar. Both Ki-67-LI and p53-positive status were significantly correlated with the IFG scores. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study demonstrate that overexpression of Ki-67 antigen and p53 at the deep tumor invasive front of O-SCC is associated with histologic grade of malignancy.
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