Clinical and biochemical studies support smokeless tobacco's carcinogenic potential in thehumanoral cavity

Susan R. Mallery, Meng Tong, Gregory C. Michaels, Amber R. Kiyani, Stephen S. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer presented compelling evidence that linked smokeless tobacco use to the development of human oral cancer. Although these findings imply vigorous local carcinogen metabolism, little is known about levels and distribution of phase I, II, and III (drug egress) enzymes in human oral mucosa. In this study here, we integrated clinical data, and imaging and histopathologic analyses of an oral squamous cell carcinoma that arose at the site of smokeless tobacco quid placement in a patient. Immunoblot and immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses were used to identify tumor and normal human oral mucosal smokeless tobacco-associated metabolic activation and detoxification enzymes. Human oral epithelium contains every known phase I enzyme associated with nitrosamine oxidative bioactivation with approximately 2-fold interdonor differences in protein levels. Previous studies have confirmed approximately 3.5-fold interdonor variations in intraepithelial phase II enzymes. Unlike the superficially located enzymes in nonreplicating esophageal surface epithelium, IHC studies confirmed that oral mucosal nitrosamine metabolizing enzymes reside in the basilar and suprabasilar region, which notably is the site of ongoing keratinocyte DNA replication. Clearly, variations in product composition, nitrosamine metabolism, and exposure duration will modulate clinical outcomes. The data presented here form a coherent picture consistent with the abundant experimental data that link tobaccospecific nitrosamines to human oral cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-32
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


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