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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Mar 15;11(6):2272-84.

Stromelysin 3, Ets-1, and vascular endothelial growth factor expression in oral precancerous and cancerous lesions: correlation with microvessel density, progression, and prognosis.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi 110-029, India.



Identification of molecular changes characteristic of development and progression of oral cancer are of paramount importance for effective intervention. Stromelysin 3 (MMP11) is a unique matrix metalloproteinase shown to have dual function during cancer progression. The transcription factor Ets-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are important proangiogenic factors in cancer. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that concomitant expression of stromelysin 3, Ets-1, and/or VEGF affects the development, progression, and prognosis of oral cancer.


Immunohistochemical analysis of stromelysin 3, Ets-1, VEGF, and platelet/endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (a marker for intratumoral microvessel density) was carried out in serial paraffin embedded tissue sections of 220 oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC), 90 precancerous lesions (59 hyperplasias and 31 dysplasias), and 81 matched histologically normal oral tissues.


Ets-1, VEGF, and stromelysin 3 expression independently correlated with increased intratumoral microvessel density in precancerous lesions (P = 0.05, 0.001, and 0.026, respectively) as well as in SCCs (P = 0.005, 0.01, and 0.031, respectively). Logistic regression analysis revealed that concomitant expression of stromelysin 3 and Ets-1 (stromelysin 3(+)/ Ets-1(+) phenotype; odds ratio, 3.7; P = 0.001) was the most significant predictor for transition to precancerous stage, whereas dual expression of stromelysin 3 and VEGF (stromelysin 3(+)/ VEGF(+) phenotype; odds ratio, 2.07; P = 0.004) was the most important predictor for progression from precancerous stage to frank malignancy. Intriguingly, Ets-1 expression was significantly associated with VEGF expression and stromelysin 3 expression in precancerous tissues as well as OSCCs. Follow-up data for 144 patients for a maximum period of 115 months showed that VEGF [hazards ratio (HR), 4.532; P = 0.004] and Ets-1 (HR = 2.182; P = 0.049) expression significantly correlated with reduced disease-free survival in univariate analysis. In bivariate analysis, patients harboring Ets-1(+)/VEGF(+) phenotype had the worst survival (median disease-free survival, 50 months; HR, 2.943; P = 0.003). Multivariate analysis using Cox's proportional hazards model showed that increased VEGF expression was the most significant adverse prognosticator in OSCC patients (HR, 4.470; P = 0.004).


In conclusion, this study provides the first evidence of concomitant expression of stromelysin 3, VEGF, and Ets-1 in clinical specimens in different stages of development of oral cancer. In early stages, concomitant expression of stromelysin 3 and Ets-1 favors the development of a precancerous state, whereas dual expression of stromelysin 3 and VEGF is associated with progression from precancerous to cancerous state. VEGF expression is an adverse prognosticator for disease-free survival.

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