In vitro models of oral cancer

We continue to research the biology of normal oral mucosa and skin in order to develop more complex 3 dimensional tissue engineered constructs of these tissues. These are used to study the tissue responses to biomaterials, fungi and bacteria as well methods of drug delivery across the skin and oral mucosa. In addition, the constructs are used for in vitro modelling of various skin and mucosal diseases. These include, head and neck cancer, the autoimmune bullous diseases, lichen planus, oral candidiasis, oral mucositis, oral ulceration, gingivitis and wound healing. These models enable us to investigate and better understand the mechanisms responsible for these diseases and to develop new diagnostic procedures and treatments without the need for animal studies

The group are developing in vitro models of squamous cell carcinomas. In patients, these cancers develop as an expanding mass of cells that become more and more hypoxic at their core. The hypoxic centres are often resistant to radio- and chemo-therapy, while the expanding ball of tumour cells induces the formation of blood vessels and displaces or invades surrounding tissue. In order to study the interaction of tumour cells with their surrounding tissue, three dimensional tumour spheroids are being grown in vitro that replicate the properties of malignant tumour growth. Using tumour sphaeroids, the normal tissue response to tumours can be studied facilitating development of new and improved treatments.

We are also developing in vitro models of salivary gland tumours which are somewhat more complex in their histology. Although salivary gland tumours are relatively uncommon the mortality rate is very high and very little is known about tumour initiation and development. What is known is that often novel fusion proteins are associated with these tumours. We aim to use our 3D models to investigate tumourigenesis and the role, if any, played by the fusion proteins.

Research contacts:

Dr C. Murdoch

Dr Lynne Bingle

Professor M. Thornhill

Professor P. Speight

Professor P. Farthing

Dr K. Hunter

Dr H. Colley