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Cancer Lett. 2001 Jun 26;167(2):205-13.

SCCA1 expression in T-lymphocytes peripheral to cancer cells is associated with the elevation of serum SCC antigen in squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyushu University 3-1-1 Maidashi, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka 812-8582, Japan.


Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) antigen has been used for the management of SCC arising in various cites including head and neck region. However, the true mechanism of the elevation of this protein in the serum of patients with SCC is still unknown. SCC antigen belongs to the superfamily of serine protease inhibitors. Recently, molecular studies show that serum SCC antigen is transcribed by two nearly identical genes (SCCA1 and SCCA2), and is mainly produced by SCCA1. The objective of this study is to clarify the mechanism of the elevation of SCC antigen in oral tongue SCC patients and to identify cells histologically, which are responsible for serum SCC antigen production. In this study, we examined SCCA1 expression in a series of four head and neck SCC (HNSCC) cell lines, and found that all expressed equal to low SCCA1 protein as compared with the normal human oral keratinocyte. Using the double immunohistochemical technique to examine the expression pattern of SCCA1 in 86 cases of oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma, SCCA1 immunostaining was observed in the cytoplasm of cancer cells and T-lymphocytes peripheral to cancer cells. We also compared the clinicopathological features including serum SCC antigen level of the oral tongue SCC cases with the immunohistochemical SCCA1 expression pattern, and found that elevated serum SCC antigen level was significantly correlated with SCCA1 expression not in cancer cells, but in T-lymphocytes peripheral to cancer cells. These results suggest that T-lymphocytes peripheral to cancer cells may be responsible for serum SCC antigen production in HNSCC patients.

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