BACKGROUND: The abrogation of function of the tumor-suppressor protein p53 as a result of mutation of its gene, TP53, is one of the most common genetic alterations in cancer cells. We evaluated TP53 mutations and survival in patients with squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck. METHODS: A total of 560 patients with squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck who were treated surgically with curative intent were enrolled in our prospective multicenter, 7-year study. TP53 mutations were analyzed in DNA from the tumor specimens with the use of the Affymetrix p53 chip and the Surveyor DNA endonuclease and denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography. Mutations were classified into two groups, disruptive and nondisruptive, according to the degree of disturbance of protein structure predicted from the crystal structure of the p53-DNA complexes. TP53 mutational status was compared with clinical outcome. RESULTS: TP53 mutations were found in tumors from 224 of 420 patients (53.3%). As compared with wild-type TP53, the presence of any TP53 mutation was associated with decreased overall survival (hazard ratio for death, 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1 to 1.8; P = 0.009), with an even stronger association with disruptive mutations (hazard ratio, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.3 to 2.4; P<0.001) and no significant association with nondisruptive mutations (hazard ratio, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.9 to 1.7; P = 0.16). In multivariate analyses a disruptive TP53 alteration, as compared with the absence of a TP53 mutation, had an independent, significant association with decreased survival (hazard ratio, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2 to 2.4; P = 0.003). CONCLUSIONS: Disruptive TP53 mutations in tumor DNA are associated with reduced survival after surgical treatment of squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck.
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