Background: Alterations in p21WAF1 protein expression have been observed in a wide variety of human cancers by immunohistochemistry, and both decreased and increased levels of p21WAF1 protein expression have been shown to correlate with poor prognosis. Method: To examine the relation between p21WAF1 protein expression and prognosis in oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs), we performed an immunohistochemical study with antip21WAF1 antibody on 43 oral SCCs. Immunostaining results were then correlated with p53 protein levels, clinicopathological parameters of the tumors and overall patient survival. Results: Of the 43 patients, 31 (72%) had tumors with positive p21WAF1 nuclear staining and 27 (63%) had tumors with p53 nuclear staining. There was no significant correlation between p21WAF1 and p53 protein expressions and both mutant p53-containing oral SCCs overexpressed p21WAF1 protein. In addition, no significant correlation was found between the p21WAF1 expression and the patients' age, sex, oral habit, cancer location, or primary tumor TNM status at the time of initial presentation. The Kaplan-Meier analysis showed a significant correlation between p21WAF1 protein overexpression and poor patient overall survival (P=0.049). When p53 and p21WAF1 were evaluated together, the 5-year overall survival was lowest in p53(+)-p21WAF1(+) patients and highest in p53(-)-p21WAF1 (-) patients (P = 0.057). Conclusion: Combined evaluation of p21WAF1 and p53 expressions may be useful in estimating the prognosis of patients with oral SCCs in Taiwan.
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