Background: The increased expression of Cav-1 is seen in various cancers from prostate, esophagus, colon, breast and pancreas yet the information regarding the correlation between the expression of Cav-1 and oral cancer is blind. Thus, the expression profile of caveolin-1 (Cav-1) in oral carcinogenesis and the correlation to the clinicopathologic covariates are examined in this study. Methods: Immunohistochemistry was used to detect Cav-1 expression in non-cancerous matched tissues (NCMT; n = 12), and tissue from normal oral mucosa (NOM; n = 12), oral pre-cancer lesions (OPL; n = 17), primary oral squamous cell carcinoma (POSCC; n = 47) and metastatic OSCC (MOSCC; n = 8). The Cav-1 expression was correlated to the age, site, areca use, stage, size, nodal involvement, and differentiation stage. Western blot was used to confirm the specificity of antibody and to follow changes in Cav-1 expression. Results: The Cav-1 immunoreactivity increased significantly from 8% in NOM and 17% in NCMT to 53% in OPL and 79% in POSCC. In addition, lymph node metastasis (LNM) was present in 62% of Cav-1(+) POSCCs, but only in 10% of Cav-1(-) POSCCs. Remarkably, only 38% of MOSCCs had Cav-1 immunoreactivity. Conclusion: An increased Cav-1 expression is seen in the stepwise carcinogenesis from NOM, NCMT, OPL to POSCC. The decrease in expression from the POSCC to MOSCC indicates the value to explore its biphasic functions in oral carcinogenesis. Whether Cav-1 is an important predictor or prognosis for survival still awaits the extension of clinical follow-up.
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