Diagnostic markers of oral cancer

Ongoing high throughput analysis of the various stages of oral cancer, including expression arrays and Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays of normal, dysplastic and carcinoma cell cultures is providing us with novel targets for investigation in OSCC. Many of these interesting markers are at a pilot stage of investigation in OSCC tissues and include complex patterns of gene expression related to the immune response to tumours. Array analysis of microRNA in the cultures is also planned via our existing collaborations.

The group has shown that analysis of DNA ploidy can predict malignant progression of oral dysplastic lesions and that ploidy can be determined from oral cytology specimens. The first prospective clinical trial of this new cytological test is being conducted Sheffield.

Minichromosome Maintenance Proteins such as Geminin enable DNA replication licensing and act as novel markers of cell cycle progression. The group has shown them to be predictive of progression of oral dysplasia to malignancy and to be more useful than conventional markers, such as Ki-67. Using tissue microarray technology the group is now studying large numbers of specimens to determine the true prognostic capability of these proteins.

A further clinico-pathological interest in the department is of the use of Sentinel Lymph node biopsy in the surgical management of head and neck cancer. Present work includes the potential use of immunohistochemical markers to determine the risk of further disease in the neck if a patient has a positive sentinel lymph node.

The group have an active interest in harnessing salivary extracellular vesicles (EVs) as a source of biomarkers for the early diagnosis of oral cancer. A number of methods have been established in-house for the isolation and molecular characterisation of salivary EVs.

Research contacts:

Dr D. Lambert

Professor P. Speight

Professor P. Farthing

Dr K. Hunter

Dr S Hunt