• Bcl-2;
  • Bax;
  • p53;
  • survivin;
  • apoptosis;
  • oral cancer

Background:  Oral cancer is one of the five leading sites of cancer in the Indian population. In the present study we analyzed the expression of apoptosis regulating genes, viz. survivin, Bcl-2, Bax and p53 in precancerous and cancerous lesions of the buccal mucosa of Indian tobacco chewers.

Method:  Paraffin-embedded tissue samples from 38 patients with primary oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and 17 patients with leukoplakia were used. The expression of survivin, Bcl-2, Bax, and p53 was evaluated using immunohistochemical staining method.

Results:  Thirty-six percent OSCC were found to be positive for nuclear p53 staining while none of the precancerous lesions showed p53 positivity. Survivin, Bcl-2 and Bax expression was found to increase with increased grade of malignancy. Increase in survivin expression was statistically most significant (P < 0.001).

Conclusion:  Increased expression of anti-apoptotic survivin in high-grade tumors suggests that survivin is likely to contribute significantly to apoptosis resistance in response to therapy.