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Cancer. 2012 Mar 15;118(6):1693-700. doi: 10.1002/cncr.26483. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

Two stem cell markers, ATP-binding cassette, G2 subfamily (ABCG2) and BMI-1, predict the transformation of oral leukoplakia to cancer: a long-term follow-up study.

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Department of Oral Mucosal Diseases, Ninth People's Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Stomatology, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.



Although oral leukoplakia (OL) is the best-known potentially malignant disorder, the risk of OL malignant transformation is difficult to assess. ATP-binding cassette, G2 subfamily (ABCG2) and BMI-1 are stem cell markers that have been found to be associated with head and neck tumorigenesis. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the usefulness of ABCG2 and BMI-1 in predicting OL transformation.


In a retrospective cohort of 135 patients with OL from the study institution who had a mean follow-up of 5.5 years, 32 developed cancer between 1985 and 2008. The expression of ABCG2 and BMI-1 was determined using immunohistochemistry in samples from these patients, and included untransformed OL (n = 103) and malignant-transformed OL (n = 32). The association between protein expression and clinicopathological parameters and transformation was analyzed.


Expression of ABCG2 and BMI-1 was observed in 58 (43.0%) and 44 (32.6%) of 135 patients, respectively. The correlation between ABCG2 and BMI-1 expression was significant (P = .024). Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed that 37.9% of patients with ABCG2 positivity developed cancer compared with 13.0% of patients with ABCG2 negativity (P = .014, log-rank test). Approximately 40.9% of patients with BMI-1 positivity developed cancer compared with 15.4% of patients with BMI-1 negativity (P = .029, log-rank test). Multivariate analysis revealed that ABCG2 and BMI-1 expression was associated with a 3.24-fold (95% confidence interval [95% CI], 1.31-7.98; P = .011) and 4.03-fold (95% CI, 1.59-10.26; P = .003) increased the risk of transformation, respectively.


ABCG2 and BMI-1 expression was found to be associated with the development of oral cancer in a large cohort of patients with OL for whom long-term follow-up was available, which suggests that ABCG2 and BMI-1 may be used as predictors of OL transformation.

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