The p53 gene has been correlated with disease progression in a number of human malignancies, and p53 abnormalities are found in a high percentage of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. The objectives of this study were 1. to correlate p53 expression with disease progression in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN), and 2. to determine whether there are site-specific differences in p53 expression. Primary lesions and/or lymph node metastases from 147 patients with invasive SCCHN were immunostained for p53 overexpression. Expression of p53 was similar (42% versus 43%) in primary lesions and lymph node metastases. Expression also did not vary significantly by site in the head and neck. In conclusion, increased p53 expression did not correlate with disease progression in our series of patients with invasive SCCHN. The finding of a lack of increased expression with disease spread to lymph nodes supports the belief that p53 alterations occur early in head and neck carcinogenesis.
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