• Andrej Cör Institute for Histology and Embryology Medical Faculty Korytkova 2 1000 Ljubljana
  • Jože Pižem Institute of Pathology Medical Faculty Korytkova 2 1000 Ljubljana
  • Nina Gale Institute of Pathology Medical Faculty Korytkova 2 1000 Ljubljana
Keywords: pro-caspase 3, Bcl-2, squamous cell carcinoma, immunohistochemistry


Background. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common cancer and accounts for 6% of cancers worldwide. A better understanding of its biology could lead to improved treatment options. Generally, the goal of cancer treatment is to abolish cell proliferation and to induce necrotic or aptoptotic cell death. Apoptosis has been recognized as a key mechanism of tumour cell elimination. Different apoptotic signals converge to induce caspase cascade activation. Caspase 3 is the central executioner caspase and is necessary for effective apoptotic cell death. Bcl-2 protein family regulates apoptosis. The Bcl-2 protein itself is a product of a proto-oncogene and has an antiapoptotic action.

Methods. In our study, the expression of Bcl-2 and pro-caspase 3 by immunohistochemistry in 28 HNSCC graded into well, moderately and poorly differentiated cancers were investigated.

Results. Our results of Bcl-2 expression confirm and extend previous reports in which Bcl-2 over-expression has been recognised as an important parameter in HNSCC biological behaviour. Three of 28 tumours (11%) showed significant Bcl-2 expression. Two of them were poorly and one was moderately differentiated. Pro-caspase 3 immunoreactivity was confined mainly to the cytoplasm. Absent or low pro-caspase 3 immunoreactivity was found only in 1 of 6 well differentiated and in 1of 10 moderately differentiated tumours in contrast to 5 of 12 poorly differentiated tumours. In six of 12 poorly differentiated tumours procasapse 3 immunoreactivity was strongly positive. In two cases hyperplastic epithelium was strongly positive in contrast to adjacent HNSCC in the same slide which was completely negative for pro-caspase 3.

Conclusions. Our results indicate downregulation of pro-caspase 3 expression, especially in poorly differentiated HNSCC. Further studies are needed to test whether this is related to HNSCC behaviour and predict treatment outcome.


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How to Cite
Cör A, Pižem J, Gale N. THE EXPRESSION OF Bcl-2 AND PRO-CASPASE 3 IN HEAD AND NECK SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA. ZdravVestn [Internet]. 1 [cited 30Mar.2020];71. Available from:
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