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Retinoic acid normalizes the increased gene transcription rate of TGF–α and EGFR in head and neck cancer cell lines

Nature Medicinevolume 2pages237240 (1996) | Download Citation



Retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to be effective in eradicating premalignant lesions1 and preventing second primary malignancies in patients cured of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) in clinical trials2. The basis for this effect is unclear. We have previously demonstrated that messenger RNA from tumor growth factor–α (TGF–α) and its receptor, the epidermal growth factor (EGFR), is upregulated in tumors and histologically normal mucosal samples from patients with SCCHN compared with control normal mucosa from patients without cancer, implicating this ligand–receptor pair in an autocrine growth pathway early in the molecular pathogenesis of this disease3. In this report, we examined the hypothesis that the action of RA on the mucosa of the upper aerodigestive tract is mediated via downregulation of steady–state TGF–α and/or EGFR mRNA levels. Following exposure to all–trans–RA, a series of SCCHN cell lines demonstrated a 35.4% reduction in TGF–α mRNA expression (P= 0.022) and 58.5% reduction in EGFR mRNA (P = 0.0027). Nuclear run–on analysis indicated that the RA–mediated reduction of TGF–α and EGFR steady–state mRNA levels was a result of decreased gene transcription. These results suggest that the clinical effects of RA in SCCHN patients may be due to a downmodulation of TGF–α and EGFR mRNA production.

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  1. Department of Otolaryngology, University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 200 Lothrop Street, Suite 500, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213, USA

    • Jennifer Rubin Grandis
    •  & Qing Zeng
  2. Departments of Medicine, and Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, 200 Lothrop Street, Suite 500, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213, USA

    • David J. Tweardy


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