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1.  Repression of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) but not its receptors during oral cancer progression 
BMC Cancer  2007;7:108.
TRAIL plays an important role in host immunosurveillance against tumor progression, as it induces apoptosis of tumor cells but not normal cells, and thus has great therapeutic potential for cancer treatment. TRAIL binds to two cell-death-inducing (DR4 and DR5) and two decoy (DcR1, and DcR2) receptors. Here, we compare the expression levels of TRAIL and its receptors in normal oral mucosa (NOM), oral premalignancies (OPM), and primary and metastatic oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) in order to characterize the changes in their expression patterns during OSCC initiation and progression.
DNA microarray, immunoblotting and immunohistochemical analyses were used to examine the expression levels of TRAIL and its receptors in oral epithelial cell lines and in archival tissues of NOM, OPM, primary and metastatic OSCC. Apoptotic rates of tumor cells and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) in OSCC specimens were determined by cleaved caspase 3 immunohistochemistry.
Normal oral epithelia constitutively expressed TRAIL, but expression was progressively lost in OPM and OSCC. Reduction in DcR2 expression levels was noted frequently in OPM and OSCC compared to respective patient-matched uninvolved oral mucosa. OSCC frequently expressed DR4, DR5 and DcR1 but less frequently DcR2. Expression levels of DR4, DR5 and DcR1 receptors were not significantly altered in OPM, primary OSCC and metastatic OSCC compared to patient-matched normal oral mucosa. Expression of proapoptotic TRAIL-receptors DR4 and DR5 in OSCC seemed to depend, at least in part, on whether or not these receptors were expressed in their parental oral epithelia. High DR5 expression in primary OSCC correlated significantly with larger tumor size. There was no significant association between TRAIL-R expression and OSSC histology grade, nodal status or apoptosis rates of tumor cells and TIL.
Loss of TRAIL expression is an early event during oral carcinogenesis and may be involved in dysregulation of apoptosis and contribute to the molecular carcinogenesis of OSCC. Differential expressions of TRAIL receptors in OSCC do not appear to play a crucial role in their apoptotic rate or metastatic progression.
PMCID: PMC1924860  PMID: 17592646
2.  Integrative analysis of DNA copy number and gene expression in metastatic oral squamous cell carcinoma identifies genes associated with poor survival 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:143.
Lymphotropism in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is one of the most important prognostic factors of 5-year survival. In an effort to identify genes that may be responsible for the initiation of OSCC lymphotropism, we examined DNA copy number gains and losses and corresponding gene expression changes from tumor cells in metastatic lymph nodes of patients with OSCC.
We performed integrative analysis of DNA copy number alterations (CNA) and corresponding mRNA expression from OSCC cells isolated from metastatic lymph nodes of 20 patients using Affymetrix 250 K Nsp I SNP and U133 Plus 2.0 arrays, respectively. Overall, genome CNA accounted for expression changes in 31% of the transcripts studied. Genome region 11q13.2-11q13.3 shows the highest correlation between DNA CNA and expression. With a false discovery rate < 1%, 530 transcripts (461 genes) demonstrated a correlation between CNA and expression. Among these, we found two subsets that were significantly associated with OSCC (n = 122) when compared to controls, and with survival (n = 27), as tested using an independent dataset with genome-wide expression profiles for 148 primary OSCC and 45 normal oral mucosa. We fit Cox models to calculate a principal component analysis-derived risk-score for these two gene sets ('122-' or '27-transcript PC'). The models combining the 122- or 27-transcript PC with stage outperformed the model using stage alone in terms of the Area Under the Curve (AUC = 0.82 or 0.86 vs. 0.72, with p = 0.044 or 0.011, respectively).
Genes exhibiting CNA-correlated expression may have biological impact on carcinogenesis and cancer progression in OSCC. Determination of copy number-associated transcripts associated with clinical outcomes in tumor cells with an aggressive phenotype (i.e., cells metastasized to the lymph nodes) can help prioritize candidate transcripts from high-throughput data for further studies.
PMCID: PMC2893102  PMID: 20537188
3.  Integrative Genomics in Combination with RNA Interference Identifies Prognostic and Functionally Relevant Gene Targets for Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003169.
In oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), metastasis to lymph nodes is associated with a 50% reduction in 5-year survival. To identify a metastatic gene set based on DNA copy number abnormalities (CNAs) of differentially expressed genes, we compared DNA and RNA of OSCC cells laser-microdissected from non-metastatic primary tumors (n = 17) with those from lymph node metastases (n = 20), using Affymetrix 250K Nsp single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) arrays and U133 Plus 2.0 arrays, respectively. With a false discovery rate (FDR)<5%, 1988 transcripts were found to be differentially expressed between primary and metastatic OSCC. Of these, 114 were found to have a significant correlation between DNA copy number and gene expression (FDR<0.01). Among these 114 correlated transcripts, the corresponding genomic regions of each of 95 transcripts had CNAs differences between primary and metastatic OSCC (FDR<0.01). Using an independent dataset of 133 patients, multivariable analysis showed that the OSCC–specific and overall mortality hazards ratio (HR) for patients carrying the 95-transcript signature were 4.75 (95% CI: 2.03–11.11) and 3.45 (95% CI: 1.84–6.50), respectively. To determine the degree by which these genes impact cell survival, we compared the growth of five OSCC cell lines before and after knockdown of over-amplified transcripts via a high-throughput siRNA–mediated screen. The expression-knockdown of 18 of the 26 genes tested showed a growth suppression ≥30% in at least one cell line (P<0.01). In particular, cell lines derived from late-stage OSCC were more sensitive to the knockdown of G3BP1 than cell lines derived from early-stage OSCC, and the growth suppression was likely caused by increase in apoptosis. Further investigation is warranted to examine the biological role of these genes in OSCC progression and their therapeutic potentials.
Author Summary
Neck lymph node metastasis is the most important prognostic factor in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). To identify genes associated with this critical step of OSCC progression, we compared DNA copy number aberrations and gene expression differences between tumor cells found in metastatic lymph nodes versus those in non-metastatic primary tumors. We identified 95 transcripts (87 genes) with metastasis-specific genome abnormalities and gene expression. Tested in an independent cohort of 133 OSCC patients, the 95 gene signature was an independent risk factor of disease-specific and overall death, suggesting a disease progression phenotype. We knocked down the expression of over-amplified genes in five OSCC cell lines. Knockdown of 18 of the 26 tested genes suppressed the cell growth in at least one cell line. Interestingly, cell lines derived from late-stage OSCC were more sensitive to the knockdown of G3BP1 than cell lines derived from early-stage OSCC. The knockdown of G3BP1 increased programmed cell death in the p53-mutant but not wild-type OSCC cell lines. Taken together, we demonstrate that CNA–associated transcripts differentially expressed in carcinoma cells with an aggressive phenotype (i.e., metastatic to lymph nodes) can be biomarkers with both prognostic information and functional relevance. Moreover, results suggest that G3BP1 is a potential therapeutic target against late-stage p53-negative OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3547824  PMID: 23341773
4.  Prognostic significance of cytoplasmic S100A2 overexpression in oral cancer patients 
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) patients are at high risk of loco-regional recurrence and 5-year survival rates are about 50%. Identification of patients at high risk of recurrence will enable rigorous personalized post-treatment management. Most novel biomarkers have failed translation for clinical use because of their limited successful validation in external patient cohorts. The aim of this study was to determine the prognostic significance of alterations in sub-cellular expression of S100A2, a pro-tumorigenic calcium binding protein, identified as a candidate biomarker in our proteomic analysis in OSCC and validation of its clinical utility in an external cohort.
In a retrospective study, immunohistochemical analysis of S100A2 was carried out in 235 Indian OSCC (Test set) and 129 normal oral tissues, correlated with clinicopathological parameters and disease outcome over 122 months for OSCC patients following the REMARK criteria. The findings were validated in an external cohort (Validation set 115 Canadian OSCC and 51 normal tissues) and data analyzed using the R package.
Significant increase in cytoplasmic and decrease in nuclear S100A2 expression was observed in OSCC in comparison with normal tissues. Cox multivariable regression analysis internally and externally validated cytoplasmic S100A2 association with tumor recurrence. Kaplan Meier analysis of patients stratified to high and low risk groups showed significantly different recurrence free survival (Test set- log rank test, p = 0.005, median survival 16 and 69 months respectively and Validation set - p < 0.00001, median survival 9.4 and 59.9 months respectively); 86% and 81% of patients who had recurrence were correctly stratified into the high risk group. Seventy percent and 81% patients stratified into low risk group did not show cancer recurrence within 1 year in Test and Validation sets.
Our study provided clinical evidence for the potential of cytoplasmic S100A2 overexpression as a predictor of recurrence risk in OSCC patients. A unique translational aspect of our study is validation of S100A2 as prognostic marker in two independent cohorts (Canadian and Indian) suggesting this protein is likely to find widespread utility in clinical practice for identifying oral cancer patients at high risk of disease recurrence.
PMCID: PMC4324434  PMID: 25591983
S100A2; Oral lesion; Squamous cell hyperplasia; Dysplasia; Squamous cell carcinoma; Head-and-neck cancer; Prognosis
5.  A Genetic Expression Profile Associated With Oral Cancer Identifies A Group of Patients at High-Risk of Poor Survival 
To determine if gene expression signature of invasive oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) can sub-classify OSCC on the basis of survival.
Experimental Design
We analyzed the expression of 131 genes in 119 OSCC, 35 normal and 17 dysplastic mucosae to identify cluster-defined sub-groups. Multivariate Cox regression was used to estimate the association between gene expression and survival. By stepwise Cox regression the top predictive models of OSCC-specific survival were determined, and compared by Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analysis.
The 3-year overall mean survival (± SE) for a cluster of 45 OSCC patients was 38.7 ± 0.09%, compared to 69.1 ± 0.08% for the remaining patients. Multivariate analysis adjusted for age, sex and stage showed that the 45 OSCC cluster patients had worse overall and OSCC-specific survival (HR=3.31, 95% CI: 1.66, 6.58; HR=5.43, 95% CI: 2.32, 12.73, respectively). Stepwise Cox regression on the 131 probe sets revealed that a model with a term for LAMC2 (laminin, gamma 2) gene expression best identified patients with worst OSCC-specific survival. We fit a Cox model with a term for a principal component analysis-derived risk-score marker (‘PCA’) and two other models that combined stage with either LAMC2 or PCA. The Area Under the Curve for models combining stage with either LAMC2 or PCA was 0.80 or 0.82, respectively, compared to 0.70 for stage alone (p=0.013 and 0.008, respectively).
Gene expression and stage combined predict survival of OSCC patients better than stage alone.
PMCID: PMC2683360  PMID: 19228736
6.  A gene signature in histologically normal surgical margins is predictive of oral carcinoma recurrence 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:437.
Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC) is a major cause of cancer death worldwide, which is mainly due to recurrence leading to treatment failure and patient death. Histological status of surgical margins is a currently available assessment for recurrence risk in OSCC; however histological status does not predict recurrence, even in patients with histologically negative margins. Therefore, molecular analysis of histologically normal resection margins and the corresponding OSCC may aid in identifying a gene signature predictive of recurrence.
We used a meta-analysis of 199 samples (OSCCs and normal oral tissues) from five public microarray datasets, in addition to our microarray analysis of 96 OSCCs and histologically normal margins from 24 patients, to train a gene signature for recurrence. Validation was performed by quantitative real-time PCR using 136 samples from an independent cohort of 30 patients.
We identified 138 significantly over-expressed genes (> 2-fold, false discovery rate of 0.01) in OSCC. By penalized likelihood Cox regression, we identified a 4-gene signature with prognostic value for recurrence in our training set. This signature comprised the invasion-related genes MMP1, COL4A1, P4HA2, and THBS2. Over-expression of this 4-gene signature in histologically normal margins was associated with recurrence in our training cohort (p = 0.0003, logrank test) and in our independent validation cohort (p = 0.04, HR = 6.8, logrank test).
Gene expression alterations occur in histologically normal margins in OSCC. Over-expression of the 4-gene signature in histologically normal surgical margins was validated and highly predictive of recurrence in an independent patient cohort. Our findings may be applied to develop a molecular test, which would be clinically useful to help predict which patients are at a higher risk of local recurrence.
PMCID: PMC3198722  PMID: 21989116
oral squamous cell carcinoma; surgical resection margins; global gene expression profiling; prognostic signature; recurrence
7.  Expression of Angiopoietin-2 and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-3 Correlates with Lymphangiogenesis and Angiogenesis and Affects Survival of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e75388.
Both Ang-2 and VEGFR-3 are major regulators of angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, respectively, and thus may affect prognosis of OSCC. We sought to determine the associations between Ang-2 and VEGFR-3 expression and survival of OSCC.
Ang-2 and VEGFR-3 expression was determined immunohistochemically in tumor tissues from 112 patients with OSCC; OSCC-adjacent noncancerous oral tissue from 85 OSCC patients; and normal oral mucosa from 37 cancer-free individuals. A log-rank test and Cox proportional hazard models were used to compare survival among different groups with expression of Ang-2 and VEGFR-3.
Ang-2 and VEGFR-3 expression was upregulated in OSCC compared to nontumor tissue (all P<0.05). High Ang-2 expression positively correlated with microvessel density (MVD) (P<0.01), and high VEGFR-3 expression positively correlated with lymph node metastasis (P<0.01) and lymphatic vessel density (LVD) (P<0.01). The patients with high expression of Ang-2 alone or in combination with VEGFR-3 had a significantly worse survival than in patients with low expression of Ang-2 or any other co-expression status (all P<0.05), respectively. Furthermore, multivariable analysis showed that patients with high expression of Ang-2 alone or in combination with VEGFR-3 had a significantly increased risk of death compared with those with low expression of Ang-2 or any other co-expression status (HR, 2.7, 95% CI, 1.1–6.2 and 5.0, 1.3–15.4, respectively).
These results suggest that increased expression in tumors of Ang-2 may individually, or in combination with VEGFR-3, predict poor prognosis of OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3770542  PMID: 24040410
8.  Gender Difference in the Prognostic Role of Interleukin 6 in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50104.
Interleukin 6 (IL6) plays an important role in immunoregulation and tumorigenesis in human cancers. Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a malignant tumor of the oral cavity with a male predominant tendency and a poor clinical prognosis. Due to the relatively few cases in females, the gender difference of prognostic markers for OSCC is seldom discussed.
In this study, we used immunohistochemical staining methods to investigate the associations between IL6 expression and the clinicopathological characteristics of OSCC. In addition, we collected 74 female and 263 male OSCC patients for evaluation.
High IL6 expression in tumor cells was significantly associated OSCC patient characteristics including female gender (P<0.001), high lymph node metastatic rate (P = 0.007), and poor tumor differentiation (P = 0.008). Tumor-expressed IL6 had prognostic role in male OSCC patients as defined by the log-rank test (P = 0.014), but not in female patients (P = 0.959). In male OSCC patients, high IL6 expression in tumor cells was associated with poor prognosis (P = 0.025) and a 1.454-fold higher death risk, as determined by Cox regression.
High IL6 expression in tumor cells was therefore significantly associated with aggressive clinical manifestations and might be an independent survival predictor, particularly in male OSCC patients.
PMCID: PMC3503757  PMID: 23185547
9.  Human Beta-Defensin-1 Suppresses Tumor Migration and Invasion and Is an Independent Predictor for Survival of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91867.
Human beta-defensin-1 (hBD-1) has recently been considered as a candidate tumor suppressor in renal and prostate cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of hBD-1 in the progression of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and its potential as diagnostic/prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for OSCC.
HBD-1 expression in tissues at different stages of oral carcinogenesis, as well as OSCC cell lines was examined. HBD-1 was overexpressed in HSC-3, UM1, SCC-9 and SCC-25 cells and subjected to cell growth, apoptosis, migration and invasion assays. Tissue microarray constructed with tissues from 175 patients was used to examine clinicopathological significance of hBD-1 expression in OSCC.
HBD-1 expression decreased from oral precancerous lesions to OSCC and was lower in OSCC with lymph node metastasis than those without metastasis. In vitro, the expression of hBD-1 was related to the invasive potential of OSCC cell lines. Induction of exogenous expression of hBD-1 inhibited migration and invasion of OSCC cells, probably by regulation of RhoA, RhoC and MMP-2; but had no significant effect on proliferation or apoptosis. In a cohort of patients with primary OSCC, cases with no expression of hBD-1 had more chance to be involved in lymph node metastasis. Eventually, the positive expression of hBD-1 was associated with longer survival of patients with OSCC, and multivariate analysis and ROC curve analysis confirmed hBD-1 positivity to be an independent prognostic factor of OSCC, especially OSCC at early stage.
Overall, these data indicated that hBD-1 suppressed tumor migration and invasion of OSCC and was likely to be a prognostic biomarker and a potential target for treatment of OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3962354  PMID: 24658581
10.  Bax expression measured by AQUAnalysis is an independent prognostic marker in oral squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:332.
Resistance to apoptosis is a hallmark of cancer and proteins regulating apoptosis have been proposed as prognostic markers in several malignancies. However, the prognostic impact of apoptotic markers has not been consistently demonstrated in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). This inconsistency in reported associations between apoptotic proteins and prognosis can be partly attributed to the intrinsic low resolution and misclassification associated with manual, semi-quantitative methods of biomarker expression measurement. The aim of this study was to examine the association between apoptosis-regulating proteins and clinical outcomes in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) using the quantitative fluorescence immunohistochemistry (IHC) based AQUAnalysis technique.
Sixty-nine OSCC patients diagnosed between 1998–2005 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada were included in the study. Clinical data were obtained from the Alberta Cancer Registry and chart review. Tissue microarrays (TMAs) were assembled from triplicate cores of formalin-fixed paraffin embedded pre-treatment tumour tissue. Bax, Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL protein expression was quantified using fluorescent IHC and AQUA technology in normal oral cavity squamous epithelium (OCSE) and OSCC tumour samples. Survival was analyzed using Kaplan-Meier plots and the Cox proportional hazard model.
Bax expression was predominantly nuclear in OCSE and almost exclusively cytoplasmic in OSCC. No similar differences in localization were observed for Bcl-2 or Bcl-XL. Only Bax expression associated with disease-specific survival (DSS), with 5-year survival estimates of 85.7% for high Bax versus 50.3% for low Bax (p = 0.006), in univariate analysis. High Bax expression was also significantly associated with elevated Ki67 expression, indicating that increased proliferation might lead to an improved response to radiotherapy in patients with elevated Bax expression. In multivariate analyses, Bax protein expression remained an independent predictor of DSS in OSCC [HR 0.241 (0.078-0.745), p = 0.013].
The AQUA technique used in our study eliminates observer bias and provides reliable and reproducible estimates for biomarker expression. AQUA also provides essential measures of quality control that cannot be achieved with manual biomarker scoring techniques. Our results support the use of Bax protein expression as a prognostic marker in conjunction with other clinico-pathological variables when designing personalized treatment strategies for OSCC patients.
PMCID: PMC3487960  PMID: 22852863
AQUA; Bax; Bcl-2; Bcl-XL; Oral cancer; prognosis
11.  MicroRNA Alterations and Associated Aberrant DNA Methylation Patterns across Multiple Sample Types in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27840.
MicroRNA (miRNA) expression is broadly altered in cancer, but few studies have investigated miRNA deregulation in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Epigenetic mechanisms are involved in the regulation of >30 miRNA genes in a range of tissues, and we aimed to investigate this further in OSCC.
TaqMan® qRT-PCR arrays and individual assays were used to profile miRNA expression in a panel of 25 tumors with matched adjacent tissues from patients with OSCC, and 8 control paired oral stroma and epithelium from healthy volunteers. Associated DNA methylation changes of candidate epigenetically deregulated miRNA genes were measured in the same samples using the MassArray® mass spectrometry platform. MiRNA expression and DNA methylation changes were also investigated in FACS sorted CD44high oral cancer stem cells from primary tumor samples (CSCs), and in oral rinse and saliva from 15 OSCC patients and 7 healthy volunteers.
MiRNA expression patterns were consistent in healthy oral epithelium and stroma, but broadly altered in both tumor and adjacent tissue from OSCC patients. MiR-375 is repressed and miR-127 activated in OSCC, and we confirm previous reports of miR-137 hypermethylation in oral cancer. The miR-200 s/miR-205 were epigenetically activated in tumors vs normal tissues, but repressed in the absence of DNA hypermethylation specifically in CD44high oral CSCs. Aberrant miR-375 and miR-200a expression and miR-200c-141 methylation could be detected in and distinguish OSCC patient oral rinse and saliva from healthy volunteers, suggesting a potential clinical application for OSCC specific miRNA signatures in oral fluids.
MiRNA expression and DNA methylation changes are a common event in OSCC, and we suggest miR-375, miR-127, miR-137, the miR-200 family and miR-205 as promising candidates for future investigations. Although overall activated in OSCC, miR-200/miR-205 suppression in oral CSCs indicate that cell specific silencing of these miRNAs may drive tumor expansion and progression.
PMCID: PMC3222641  PMID: 22132151
12.  Fascin overexpression promotes neoplastic progression in oral squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:32.
Fascin is a globular actin cross-linking protein, which plays a major role in forming parallel actin bundles in cell protrusions and is found to be associated with tumor cell invasion and metastasis in various type of cancers including oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Previously, we have demonstrated that fascin regulates actin polymerization and thereby promotes cell motility in K8-depleted OSCC cells. In the present study we have investigated the role of fascin in tumor progression of OSCC.
To understand the role of fascin in OSCC development and/or progression, fascin was overexpressed along with vector control in OSCC derived cells AW13516. The phenotype was studied using wound healing, Boyden chamber, cell adhesion, Hanging drop, soft agar and tumorigenicity assays. Further, fascin expression was examined in human OSCC samples (N = 131) using immunohistochemistry and level of its expression was correlated with clinico-pathological parameters of the patients.
Fascin overexpression in OSCC derived cells led to significant increase in cell migration, cell invasion and MMP-2 activity. In addition these cells demonstrated increased levels of phosphorylated AKT, ERK1/2 and JNK1/2. Our in vitro results were consistent with correlative studies of fascin expression with the clinico-pathological parameters of the OSCC patients. Fascin expression in OSCC showed statistically significant correlation with increased tumor stage (P = 0.041), increased lymph node metastasis (P = 0.001), less differentiation (P = 0.005), increased recurrence (P = 0.038) and shorter survival (P = 0.004) of the patients.
In conclusion, our results indicate that fascin promotes tumor progression and activates AKT and MAPK pathways in OSCC-derived cells. Further, our correlative studies of fascin expression in OSCC with clinico-pathological parameters of the patients indicate that fascin may prove to be useful in prognostication and treatment of OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3329405  PMID: 22264292
Fascin; Cell migration; Invasion; Metastasis; OSCC
13.  Clinical Significance of Keap1 and Nrf2 in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83479.
Oxidative stress has been reported to play an important role in progression and prognostication in various kinds of cancers. However, the role and clinical significance of oxidative stress markers Keap1 and Nrf2 in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has not been elucidated. This study aimed to investigate the correlation of oxidative stress markers Keap1 and Nrf2 expression and pathological features in OSCC by using tissue microarray. Tissue microarrays containing 17 normal oral mucosa, 7 oral epithelial dysplasia and 43 OSCC specimens were studied by immunohistochemistry. The association among these proteins and pathological features were analyzed. Expression of oxidative stress markers Keap1, Nrf2, and antioxidants PPIA, Prdx6, as well as CD147 was found to increase consecutively from normal oral mucosa to OSCC, and the Keap1, Nrf2, PPIA, Prdx6, CD147 expression in OSCC were significantly higher when compared to normal oral mucosa. Expression of Keap1, Nrf2 in tumors was not found to be significantly associated with T category, lymph node metastases, and pathological grade. Furthermore, we checked the relationship among these oxidative stress markers and found that Keap1 was significantly correlated with Nrf2, Prdx6 and CD147. Significant relationship between Nrf2 and Prdx6 was also detected. Finally, we found patients with overexpression of Keap1 and Nrf2 had not significantly worse overall survival by Kaplan–Meier analysis. These findings suggest that ROS markers are associated with carcinogenesis and progression of OSCC, which may have prognostic value and could be regarded as potential therapeutic targets in OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3873935  PMID: 24386210
14.  CD163+ Tumor-Associated Macrophages Correlated with Poor Prognosis and Cancer Stem Cells in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:838632.
Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) play an important role in the progression and prognostication of numerous cancers. However, the role and clinical significance of TAM markers in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has not been elucidated. The present study was designed to investigate the correlation between the expression of TAM markers and pathological features in OSCC by tissue microarray. Tissue microarrays containing 16 normal oral mucosa, 6 oral epithelial dysplasia, and 43 OSCC specimens were studied by immunohistochemistry. We observed that the protein expression of the TAM markers CD68 and CD163 as well as the cancer stem cell (CSC) markers ALDH1, CD44, and SOX2 increased successively from the normal oral mucosa to OSCC. The expressions of CD68 and CD163 were significantly associated with lymph node status, and SOX2 was significantly correlated with pathological grade and lymph node status, whereas ALDH1 was correlated with tumor stage. Furthermore, CD68 was significantly correlated with CD163, SOX2, and ALDH1 (P < 0.05). Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed that OSCC patients overexpressing CD163 had significantly worse overall survival (P < 0.05). TAM markers are associated with cancer stem cell marker and OSCC overall survival, suggesting their potential prognostic value in OSCC.
PMCID: PMC4032721  PMID: 24883329
15.  HOXA1 is overexpressed in oral squamous cell carcinomas and its expression is correlated with poor prognosis 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:146.
HOX genes encode homeodomain-containing transcription factors involved in the regulation of cellular proliferation and differentiation during embryogenesis. However, members of this family demonstrated oncogenic properties in some malignancies. The present study investigated whether genes of the HOXA cluster play a role in oral cancer.
In order to identify differentially expressed HOXA genes, duplex RT-PCR in oral samples from healthy mucosa and squamous cell carcinoma was used. The effects of HOXA1 on proliferation, apoptosis, adhesion, invasion, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and anchorage-independent growth were assessed in cells with up- and down-regulation of HOXA1. Immunohistochemical analysis using a tissue microarray (TMA) containing 127 oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) was performed to determine the prognostic role of HOXA1 expression.
We showed that transcripts of HOXA genes are more abundant in OSCC than in healthy oral mucosa. In particular, HOXA1, which has been described as one of the HOX members that plays an important role in tumorigenesis, was significantly more expressed in OSCCs compared to healthy oral mucosas. Further analysis demonstrated that overexpression of HOXA1 in HaCAT human epithelial cells promotes proliferation, whereas downregulation of HOXA1 in human OSCC cells (SCC9 cells) decreases it. Enforced HOXA1 expression in HaCAT cells was not capable of modulating other events related to tumorigenesis, including apoptosis, adhesion, invasion, EMT and anchorage-independent growth. A high number of HOXA1-positive cells was significantly associated with T stage, N stage, tumor differentiation and proliferative potential of the tumors, and was predictive of poor survival. In multivariate analysis, HOXA1 was an independent prognostic factor for OSCC patients (HR: 2.68; 95% CI: 1.59-2.97; p = 0.026).
Our findings indicate that HOXA1 may contribute to oral carcinogenesis by increasing tumor cell proliferation, and suggest that HOXA1 expression might be helpful as a prognostic marker for patients with OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3351375  PMID: 22498108
Oral cancer; HOXA1; Cellular proliferation; Prognosis
16.  Low Annexin A1 expression predicts benefit from induction chemotherapy in oral cancer patients with moderate or poor pathologic differentiation grade 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:301.
The benefit of induction chemotherapy in locally advanced oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) remains to be clearly defined. Induction chemotherapy is likely to be effective for biologically distinct subgroups of patients and biomarker development might lead to identification of the patients whose tumors are to respond to a particular treatment. Annexin A1 may serve as a biomarker for responsiveness to induction chemotherapy. The aim of this study was to investigate Annexin A1 expression in pre-treatment biopsies from a cohort of OSCC patients treated with surgery and post-operative radiotherapy or docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (TPF) induction chemotherapy followed by surgery and post-operative radiotherapy. Furthermore we sought to assess the utility of Annexin A1 as a prognostic or predictive biomarker.
Immunohistochemical staining for Annexin A1 was performed in pre-treatment biopsies from 232 of 256 clinical stage III/IVA OSCC patients. Annexin A1 index was estimated as the proportion of tumor cells (low and high, <50% and ≥50% of stained cells, respectively) to Annexin A1 cellular membrane and cytoplasm staining.
There was a significant correlation between Annexin A1 expression and pathologic differentiation grade (P=0.015) in OSCC patients. The proportion of patients with low Annexin A1 expression was significantly higher amongst those with moderate/poorly differentiated tumor (78/167) compared to those with well differentiated tumor (18/65). Multivariate Cox model analysis showed clinical stage (P=0.001) and Annexin A1 expression (P=0.038) as independent prognostic risk factors. Furthermore, a low Annexin A1 expression level was predictive of longer disease-free survival (P=0.036, HR=0.620) and locoregional recurrence-free survival (P=0.031, HR=0.607) compared to high Annexin A1 expression. Patients with moderate/poorly differentiated tumor and low Annexin A1 expression benefited from TPF induction chemotherapy as measured by distant metastasis-free survival (P=0.048, HR=0.373) as well as overall survival (P=0.078, HR=0.410).
Annexin A1 can be used as a prognostic biomarker for OSCC. Patients with moderate/poorly differentiated OSCC and low Annexin A1 expression can benefit from the addition of TPF induction chemotherapy to surgery and post-operative radiotherapy. Annexin A1 expression can potentially be used as a predictive biomarker to select OSCC patients with moderate/poorly differentiated tumor who may benefit from TPF induction chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3702430  PMID: 23786757
Annexin A1; Oral squamous cell carcinoma; Induction chemotherapy
17.  MiR-21 Expression in the Tumor Stroma of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma: An Independent Biomarker of Disease Free Survival 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95193.
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) patients have a high mortality rate; thus, new clinical biomarkers and therapeutic options are needed. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding RNAs that regulate posttranscriptional gene expression and are commonly deregulated in OSCC and other cancers. MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is the most consistently overexpressed miRNA in several types of cancer, and it might be a useful clinical biomarker and therapeutic target. To better understand the role of miR-21 in OSCC, paraffin-embedded tumor tissue samples from 86 patients with primary OSCC were analyzed by in situ hybridization. We found that miR-21 was primarily expressed in the tumor stroma and in some tumor-associated blood vessels with no expression in the adjacent normal epithelia or stroma. Using image analysis, we quantitatively estimated miR-21 expression levels specifically in the stroma of a cohort of OSCC samples. These miR-21 levels significantly correlated with disease free survival with the highest levels being located in the stroma. Stromal miR-21 expression was independently associated with a poorer prognosis, even after adjusting for clinical parameters (perineural invasion and N-stage) in a multivariate analysis. In summary, we have shown that miR-21 is located in the carcinoma cells, stroma and blood vessels of tumors, and its expression specifically in the stromal compartment has a negative prognostic value in OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3995812  PMID: 24755828
18.  Short telomere lengths in peripheral blood leukocytes are associated with an increased risk of oral premalignant lesion and oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Cancer  2013;119(24):10.1002/cncr.28367.
Oral premalignant lesions (OPLs) are precursors of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Short telomeres in peripheral blood leukocytes are associated with increased risks of several cancers. However, whether short leukocyte telomere length (LTL) predisposes to OPL and OSCC is unclear.
LTLs were measured in PBLs of 266 patients with OPL (N=174) or OSCC (N=92) at diagnosis and 394 age- and gender-matched control subjects. The association between LTL and OPL or OSCC risk, as well as the interaction of telomere length, cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking on OPL or OSCC risk were analyzed.
The age-adjusted relative LTL was the shortest in OSCC (1.64±0.29), intermediate in OPL (1.75±0.43), and longest in controls (1.82±0.36) (P for trend < 0.001). When dichotomized at the median value in controls, adjusting for age, gender, smoking and alcohol drinking status, the odds ratio (OR) for OPL and OSCC risks associated with short LTL was 2.03 (95% CI = 1.29–3.21) and 3.47 (95% CI = 1.84–6.53), respectively, with significant dose-response effects for both associations. Among 174 OPL patients, 23 progressed to OSCC and the mean LTL was shorter than in progressors than non-progressors (1.66±0.35 vs. 1.77±0.44), although the difference did not reach statistical significance (P=0.258) likely due to the small number of progressors. Interaction analysis shows that short LTL, smoking, and alcohol drinking are independent risk factors for OPL and OSCC.
Short LTL is associated with increased risks of developing OPL and OSCC and likely predisposes to the malignant progression of OPL patients.
PMCID: PMC3855186  PMID: 24105340
Telomere length; peripheral blood leukocyte; oral premalignant lesion; oral squamous cell carcinoma; smoking; alcohol drinking
19.  Gene expression profiling identifies genes predictive of oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is associated with substantial mortality and morbidity. To identify potential biomarkers for early detection of invasive OSCC, we compared gene expression of incident primary OSCC, oral dysplasia, and clinically normal oral tissue from surgical patients without head and neck cancer or pre-neoplastic oral lesions (controls), using Affymetrix U133 2.0 Plus arrays. We identified 131 differentially expressed probe sets using a training set of 119 OSCC patients and 35 controls. Forward and stepwise logistic regression analyses identified 10 successive combinations of genes which expression differentiated OSCC from controls. The best model included LAMC2, encoding laminin gamma 2 chain, and COL4A1, encoding collagen, type IV, alpha 1 chain. Subsequent modeling without these two markers showed that COL1A1, encoding collagen, type I, alpha 1 chain, and PADI1, encoding peptidyl arginine deiminase, type 1, also can distinguish OSCC from controls. We validated these two models using an internal independent testing set of 48 invasive OSCC and 10 controls and an external testing set of 42 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cases and 14 controls (GEO GSE6791), with sensitivity and specificity above 95%. These two models were also able to distinguish dysplasia (n=17) from control (n=35) tissue. Differential expression of these four genes was confirmed by qRT-PCR. If confirmed in larger studies, the proposed models may hold promise for monitoring local recurrence at surgical margins and the development of second primary oral cancer in OSCC patients.
PMCID: PMC2575803  PMID: 18669583
oral squamous cell carcinoma; oral cancer; genetic expression profiles; microarrays
20.  USP22 Is Useful as a Novel Molecular Marker for Predicting Disease Progression and Patient Prognosis of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42540.
Background and Objective
The significance of ubiquitin-specific protease 22 (USP22) as a potential marker has been growing in the field of oncology. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of USP22 and the association with its potential targets in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).
Immunohistochemistry was used to determine the expression of USP22 protein in 319 OSCC patients in comparison with 42 healthy controls. The clinical correlations and prognostic significance of the aberrantly expressed protein was evaluated to identify novel biomarker of OSCC.
The incidence of positive USP22 expression was 63.32% in 319 conventional OSCC tissues. The protein expression level of USP22 was concomitantly up-regulated from non-cancerous mucosa to primary carcinoma and from carcinomas to lymph node metastasis (P<0.001). Moreover, statistical analysis showed that positive USP22 expression was positively related to lymph node metastasis, Ki67, Cox-2 and recurrence. Furthermore, it was shown that patients with positive USP22 expression had significantly poorer outcome compared with patients with negative expression of USP22 for patients with positive lymph nodes. Multivariate Cox regression analysis revealed that USP22 expression level was an independent prognostic factor for both overall survival and disease-free survival (P<0.001 and P<0.001, respectively). Cancer cells with reduced USP22 expression exhibited reduced proliferation and colony formation evaluated by MTT and soft agar assays.
To our knowledge, this is the first study that determines the relationship between USP22 expression and prognosis in OSCC. We found that increased expression of USP22 is associated with poor prognosis in OSCC. USP22 may represent a novel and useful prognostic marker for OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3411815  PMID: 22880026
21.  Dysregulation of heat shock protein 27 expression in oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:167.
Recent proteomic studies identified Hsp27 as a highly over-expressed protein in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Clinical studies that attempted to evaluate the prognostic values of Hsp27 yielded inconsistent results, which may be due to inclusion of OSCC cases from multiple anatomic sites. In this study, to determine the utility of Hsp27 for prognosis, we focused on oral tongue SCC (OTSCC), one of the most aggressive forms of OSCC.
Archival clinical samples of 15 normal oral tongue mucosa, 31 dysplastic lesions, 80 primary OTSCC, and 32 lymph node metastases were examined for Hsp27 expression by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Statistical analyses were carried out to assess the prognostic value of Hsp27 expression for patients with this disease.
Dysregulation of Hsp27 expression was observed in dysplastic lesions, primary OTSCC, and lymph node metastases, and appears to be associated with disease progression. Statistical analysis revealed that the reduced Hsp27 expression in primary tumor tissue was associated with poor differentiation. Furthermore, the higher expression of Hsp27 was correlated with better overall survival.
Our study confirmed that the dysregulation of Hsp27 expression is a frequent event during the progression of OTSCC. The expression of Hsp27 appears to be an independent prognostic marker for patients with this disease.
PMCID: PMC2696470  PMID: 19497117
22.  A 13-gene signature prognostic of HPV-negative OSCC: discovery and external validation 
To identify a prognostic gene signature for HPV-negative OSCC patients.
Experimental Design
Two gene expression datasets were used; a training dataset from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) (n=97), and a validation dataset from the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) (n=71). We applied L1/L2-penalized Cox regression models to the FHCRC data on the 131–gene signature previously identified to be prognostic in OSCC patients to identify a prognostic model specific for high-risk HPV-negative OSCC patients. The models were tested with the MDACC dataset using a receiver operating characteristic analysis.
A 13-gene model was identified as the best predictor of HPV-negative OSCC-specific survival in the training dataset. The risk score for each patient in the validation dataset was calculated from this model and dichotomized at the median. The estimated 2-year mortality (± SE) of patients with high risk scores was 47.1 (±9.24)% compared with 6.35 (± 4.42)% for patients with low risk scores. ROC analyses showed that the areas under the curve for the age, gender, and treatment modality-adjusted models with risk score (0.78, 95%CI: 0.74-0.86) and risk score plus tumor stage (0.79, 95%CI: 0.75-0.87) were substantially higher than for the model with tumor stage (0.54, 95%CI: 0.48-0.62).
We identified and validated a 13-gene signature that is considerably better than tumor stage in predicting survival of HPV-negative OSCC patients. Further evaluation of this gene signature as a prognostic marker in other populations of patients with HPV-negative OSCC is warranted.
PMCID: PMC3593802  PMID: 23319825
gene signature; prognosis; HPV-negative; OSCC
23.  Programmed cell death 4 loss increases tumor cell invasion and is regulated by miR-21 in oral squamous cell carcinoma 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:238.
The tumor suppressor Programmed Cell Death 4 (PDCD4) has been found to be under-expressed in several cancers and associated with disease progression and metastasis. There are no current studies characterizing PDCD4 expression and its clinical relevance in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC). Since nodal metastasis is a major prognostic factor in OSCC, we focused on determining whether PDCD4 under-expression was associated with patient nodal status and had functional relevance in OSCC invasion. We also examined PDCD4 regulation by microRNA 21 (miR-21) in OSCC.
PDCD4 mRNA expression levels were assessed in 50 OSCCs and 25 normal oral tissues. PDCD4 was under-expressed in 43/50 (86%) OSCCs, with significantly reduced mRNA levels in patients with nodal metastasis (p = 0.0027), and marginally associated with T3-T4 tumor stage (p = 0.054). PDCD4 protein expression was assessed, by immunohistochemistry (IHC), in 28/50 OSCCs and adjacent normal tissues; PDCD4 protein was absent/under-expressed in 25/28 (89%) OSCCs, and marginally associated with nodal metastasis (p = 0.059). A matrigel invasion assay showed that PDCD4 expression suppressed invasion, and siRNA-mediated PDCD4 loss was associated with increased invasive potential of oral carcinoma cells. Furthermore, we showed that miR-21 levels were increased in PDCD4-negative tumors, and that PDCD4 expression may be down-regulated in OSCC by direct binding of miR-21 to the 3'UTR PDCD4 mRNA.
Our data show an association between the loss of PDCD4 expression, tumorigenesis and invasion in OSCC, and also identify a mechanism of PDCD4 down-regulation by microRNA-21 in oral carcinoma. PDCD4 association with nodal metastasis and invasion suggests that PDCD4 may be a clinically relevant biomarker with prognostic value in OSCC.
PMCID: PMC2949797  PMID: 20831814
24.  Quantitative Proteomic Analysis of Oral Brush Biopsies Identifies Secretory Leukocyte Protease Inhibitor as a Promising, Mechanism-Based Oral Cancer Biomarker 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95389.
A decrease in the almost fifty percent mortality rate from oral cancer is needed urgently. Improvements in early diagnosis and more effective preventive treatments could affect such a decrease. Towards this end, we undertook for the first time an in-depth mass spectrometry-based quantitative shotgun proteomics study of non-invasively collected oral brush biopsies. Proteins isolated from brush biopsies from healthy normal tissue, oral premalignant lesion tissue (OPMLs), oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) and matched control tissue were compared. In replicated proteomic datasets, the secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) protein stood out based on its decrease in abundance in both OPML and OSCC lesion tissues compared to healthy normal tissue. Western blotting in additional brushed biopsy samples confirmed a trend of gradual decreasing SLPI abundance between healthy normal and OPML tissue, with a larger decrease in OSCC lesion tissue. A similar SLPI decrease was observed in-vitro comparing model OPML and OSCC cell lines. In addition, exfoliated oral cells in patients’ whole saliva showed a loss of SLPI correlated with oral cancer progression. These results, combined with proteomics data indicating a decrease in SLPI in matched healthy control tissue from OSCC patients compared to tissue from healthy normal tissue, suggested a systemic decrease of SLPI in oral cells correlated with oral cancer development. Finally, in-vitro experiments showed that treatment with SLPI significantly decreased NF-kB activity in an OPML cell line. The findings indicate anti-inflammatory activity in OPML, supporting a mechanistic role of SLPI in OSCC progression and suggesting its potential for preventative treatment of at-risk oral lesions. Collectively, our results show for the first time the potential for SLPI as a mechanism-based, non-invasive biomarker of oral cancer progression with potential in preventive treatment.
PMCID: PMC3991667  PMID: 24748380
25.  Differential Impact of IL-10 Expression on Survival and Relapse between HPV16-Positive and -Negative Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47541.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor in a subset of oropharyngeal cancer; however, the contribution of HPV in the malignancy of oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC) is not fully understood in Taiwanese. Herein, 61 patients with no risk factors and 117 patients with one or more risk factors were enrolled in this study. HPV16/18 infection rate in non-smokers, non-drinkers and non-betel quid chewers was higher than their counterparts. The development of HPV-infected cancer has been shown to be associated with interleukin-10 (IL-10) expression. To this end, IL-10 mRNA expression in OSCC tumors was evaluated by real-time RT-PCR. Data showed that HPV-positive patients had higher IL-10 mRNA levels than in HPV-negative patients. Kaplan-Meier and Cox-regression analysis indicated that the prognostic significance of IL-10 mRNA on overall survival and relapse free survival was only observed in HPV-positive OSCC, but not in HPV-negative OSCC. Mechanistically, the elevation of IL-10 by E6 was responsible for increased colony formation and migration capability in OSCC cells. Therefore, we suggest that IL-10 induced by E6 promotes cell growth and migration capability and consequent poor survival and relapse in HPV-positive OSCC.
PMCID: PMC3485273  PMID: 23118878

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