Author: Zisis V, Giannakopoulos N N, Schmitter M, et al.

Introduction: ALDH1&2 has been considered an oral cancer stem cell (CSC) marker. Oral carcinogenesis is a process that usually passes through oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD). Oral lichen planus (OLP) consists of immune-related chronic disorders that have been included in the OPMDs due to their possible transformation into oral cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the early presence of ALDH1&2 in OLP compared to early oral leukoplakias (OL), especially mildly and non-dysplastic OL.

Materials and methods: The study type is experimental, and the study design is characterized as semiquantitative research which belongs to the branch of experimental research. The study sample consisted of paraffin-embedded OLP biopsy samples from the archives of the Department of Oral Medicine/Pathology, School of Dentistry, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, during the period 2009-2019. The study sample contained 24 cases of OLP (14 erosive and 10 reticular) and 30 cases of OL (16 cases of moderately and severely dysplastic OL and 14 cases of mildly and non-dysplastic OL). The CSC-related biomarker ALDH1&2 was examined using semiquantitative immunohistochemistry (monoclonal antibody sc-166362, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Dallas, Texas, USA, 1:100). ALDH1&2 expression was evaluated through a scale of 1 to 3 depending on the percentage of positive epithelial cells and was compared to normal epithelium as well as cases of OL (the most prominent OPMD). The statistical analysis was performed with the Pearson chi-square test and the significance level was set at p≤0.05.

Results: The cytoplasmic staining of ALDH1&2 was observed mostly in the epithelial cells of the basal layer of the epithelium of OLP. Overall, this expression was significantly increased compared to normal epithelium. In addition, statistically significantly higher expression of ALDH1&2 was observed in the erosive form of OLP. Interestingly, this OLP positivity was higher compared to mild and non-dysplastic leukoplakias (p<0.001).

Conclusions: ALDH1&2 is a confirmed CSC marker that was found to be clearly increased in OLP and characteristically in erosive OLP epithelium for the first time. Noteworthy, it was more prominent in erosive OLP rather than in mildly and non-dysplastic OL. Whether this pattern of expression raises the red flag of an early epithelial “CSC” phenotype in OLP or that ALDH1&2 expression indicates a response to the OLP inflammatory process requires further investigation.

Journal Article:
Zisis V, Giannakopoulos N N, Schmitter M, et al. (August 28, 2023) Cancer Stem Cells’ Biomarker ALDH1&2 Increased Expression in Erosive Oral Lichen Planus Compared to Oral Leukoplakia. Cureus 15(8): e44278. doi:10.7759/cureus.44278