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Phosphorylated p120-catenin expression has predictive value for oral cancer progression
  1. Li-Wei Ma1,
  2. Zeng-Tong Zhou1,
  3. Qing-Bo He2,
  4. Wei-Wen Jiang1
  1. 1Shanghai Key Laboratory of Stomatology, Department of Oral Mucosal Diseases, Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China
  2. 2Department of Bio-statistics, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Wei-Wen Jiang, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Stomatology, 639 Zhizaoju Road, Shanghai 200011, China; wwjiang33{at}


Aims Recent studies have shown that phosphorylation of p120-catenin (p120) promotes progression and invasion of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) cells. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the usefulness of phosphorylated p120-catenin (pp120) as a biomarker for predicting clinical behaviour in the carcinogenesis of potentially malignant oral lesions.

Methods In a retrospective follow-up study, the expression pattern of pp120 protein was determined using immunohistochemistry in samples from 68 patients with potentially malignant oral lesions, including patients with untransformed lesions (n=38) and patients with malignant transformed lesions (n=30). Analysis of corresponding post-malignant lesions (OSCCs) was also performed.

Results There was high expression of pp120 in 35 of 68 (51.5%) of general potentially malignant oral lesions and 23 of 30 (76.7%) of OSCCs compared with expression in normal oral mucosa. Kaplan–Meier analysis revealed that patients with potentially malignant oral lesions expressing high levels of membranous pp120 had a significantly higher incidence of OSCC than those expressing low expressing pp120 (p=0.002; log-rank test). Cox regression analysis revealed that this pp120 expression pattern was significantly associated with a 3.43-fold increase in the risk of malignant progression (p=0.007). In addition, there was a significant correlation between high levels of membranous expression of pp120 in pre-malignant lesions and cytoplasmic expression in post-malignant lesions (p=0.028).

Conclusions The data indicated that a high level of membranous expression of pp120 in potentially malignant oral lesions is an early event during oral carcinogenesis, and that the mislocalisation of expression of pp120 from the cell membrane to the cytoplasm is associated with oral cancer progression. pp120 may serve as a useful marker for the identification of a high risk of potentially malignant oral lesions progressing to OSCC.

  • biomarker
  • cancer
  • carcinoma
  • head and neck cancermalignant transformation
  • malignant transformation
  • oral cancer
  • oral potentially malignant lesion
  • oral squamous cell carcinoma
  • phosphorylation
  • p120-catenin

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  • Funding This work was supported by grants from Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai (07PJ14067 and 08DZ2271100), National Natural Science Foundation of China (3087288), and Shanghai Leading Academic Discipline Project (S30206).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.