The progression of normal squamous epithelium to a malignant metastatic phenotype may depend on cellular genetic events and the failure of host mechanisms. Intermediate biomarkers are needed to more effectively identify and quantify malignant progression and develop the potential for specific treatments and prevention strategies. The nuclear matrix is the RNA-protein scaffold of the nucleus, which controls in pert nuclear shape, DNA organization, and DNA function. Nuclear matrix proteins in all previously studied cell types show a common set of nuclear matrix proteins and a subset of tissue- and cell type-specific proteins. In every system studied to date, the nuclear matrix has been demonstrated to undergo quantifiable alterations in its protein composition with transformation to the malignant phenotype. The loss and gain of nuclear matrix proteins are being investigated as biomarkers for malignant transformation in breast, colon, and prostate carcinoma. We have investigated nuclear matrix protein composition in laryngeal and oral cavity primary squamous cell tumors and metastatic cervical lymph nodes. Laryngeal carcinoma demonstrated the gain of two specific nuclear matrix proteins in comparison with noncancerous squamous epithelium. Squamous cell carcinoma matrixes demonstrate greater heterogeneity than do previously studied adenocarcinoma matrixes, and yet they display specific matrix proteins that may represent important potential biomarkers.
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