Twenty four squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck (HNSCC) of stage II to IV were evaluated for the expression of potential markers such as oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in drug-resistance behavior. We have analysed the c-myc, c-jun, c-raf and N-ras and p53 expression in total RNA preparation from tumor biopsies obtained before treatment. The patients underwent chemotherapy including 5-fluorouracil and cisplatinum. No significant differences in c-raf and N-ras expression were found in responding or resistant patients. However, resistance to chemotherapy was associated with low expression of c-myc (P < 0.025) or high expression of c-jun (P < 0.001). In addition, p53 mRNA pre-therapeutic level was increased in unresponsive patients to chemotherapy (P < 0.05). Therefore, analysis of the expression of c-myc, c-jun oncogenes and p53 tumor suppressor gene in tumor cells before initiation of therapy may define a subset of patients with potentially better prognosis.
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