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Int J Cancer. 2015 Apr 1;136(7):1589-99. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29130. Epub 2014 Aug 19.

p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 co-expression specifically identifies transformed cells in the head and neck region.

Author information

1
Department of Applied Tumor Biology, Institute of Pathology, University of Heidelberg, and Clinical Cooperation Unit Applied Tumor Biology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.

Abstract

p16(INK4a) immunohistochemical overexpression is an overall reliable surrogate marker of human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). However, cases of ambiguous p16(INK4a) overexpression are regularly detected in the head and neck: p16(INK4a) expression can be observed in non-malignant tissue, such as tonsillar crypt epithelium and a proportion of branchial cleft cysts. Additionally, diverse patterns of p16(INK4) expression can complicate interpretation of "p16(INK4a) -positivity". These aspects impede the unrestricted application of p16(INK4a) as a diagnostic marker in the head and neck. We hypothesized that combined detection of p16(INK4a) and the proliferation marker Ki-67 could support clarification of ambiguous p16(INK4a) expression in the head and neck by specifically indicating p16(INK4a) -expressing cells with proliferative activity. p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 co-expression in a combined staining procedure was correlated to distinct p16(INK4a) expression patterns and HPV status (HPV DNA followed by E6*I oncogene mRNA detection) in 147 HNSCC and 50 non-malignant head and neck samples. p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 co-expression only occurred in transformed cells of the head and neck. Co-expression was never detected in non-transformed cells. Combined p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 expression was stringently associated with a diffuse p16(INK4a) expression pattern. All HPV oncogene-expressing HNSCC showed p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 co-expression. We demonstrate that p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 co-expression occurs exclusively in transformed cells of the head and neck. Our findings indicate a substantial impact of combined p16(INK4a) /Ki-67 expression in the assessment of ambiguous p16(INK4a) expression in the head and neck by specifically identifying p16(INK4a) -expressing cells with proliferative activity. This property will be of considerable significance for head and neck histo- and cytopathology.

KEYWORDS:

E6*I RNA; HPV; Ki-67; head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; p16

PMID:
25104331
DOI:
10.1002/ijc.29130
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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