p53 over-expression has been proposed as a reliable marker associated to oral carcinogenesis, although only about 50% of oral carcinomas (OSCC) are associated with p53 over-expression and even p53-negative lesions can progress to OSCC. The aim of the study was to determine whether the combination of p53 over-expression and p53 low-expression associated with Ki67 over-expression (high Ki67/p53 ratio) could lead to a more sensitive parameter. Immunohistochemical expression of Ki67 and p53 was measured in 54 specimens from OSCC; 27 specimens from moderate/severe epithelial dysplasia; 32 specimens from oral leukoplakias without epithelial dysplasia, and 13 specimens with normal epithelium. p53 over-expression was found in 31 (53%) samples from OSCC, in 10 (37%) samples from severe dysplasias, and in 5 (15%) samples from non-dysplastic lesions, while the combination of high p53 values with high Ki67/p53 ratio was observed in 93% of OSCC, in 81% of dysplastic lesions, and in 50% of non-dysplastic lesions. This parameter may have a clinical implication to detect early lesions with an impairment of p53 pathway, and probably at risk of progress to OSCC.

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