Gene May Hold Key to Reducing Spread of Oral Cancers

Jul 23, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The spread of cancer cells in the tongue may be reduced if a gene that regulates cancer cell migration can be controlled, according to new research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Oral is an under-treated and poorly understood disease, says Xiaofeng "Charles" Zhou, assistant professor in the UIC Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases and lead researcher of the study.

More than 90 percent of oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that normally start on the gums, floor of the mouth, or tongue. About 30,000 Americans are affected each year, Zhou said.

While new cancers of all types have risen 8 percent in the last five years, oral cancer increased 21 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Tongue squamous cell carcinoma, one of the most frequent oral cancers, rose more than 37 percent in this period. And although overall cancer deaths decreased during this period, those due to oral cancer increased by 4 percent -- and those due to tongue squamous cell carcinoma by 10 percent.

Improvements in patient survival require better understanding of and how cancer spreads, Zhou said, so that aggressive tumors can be detected early and targeted therapies can be developed.

While researchers have tried to identify altered genes that contribute to the aggressive nature of tongue squamous cell carcinoma, most previous studies have focused on protein-encoding genes, Zhou said.

The new study examines a noncoding gene called microRNA-138.

MicroRNAs are small, noncoding that control the expression of a target gene after the intermediary message for the gene has been transcribed into RNA, Zhou said. Several microRNAs are believed to stimulate the spread of various types of cancer. The new study, he said, demonstrated that a reduced level of microRNA-138 is associated with enhanced ability of tongue cells to spread.

"Our knowledge of genomic aberrations associated with noncoding genes and their contributions to cancer initiation and progression is relatively limited," he said.

The study is published in the August issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Related Stories

Dentists need more training in oral cancer detection

May 29, 2007

More than 92 percent of Illinois dentists provide oral cancer examinations for their patients, but many are not performing the procedures thoroughly or at optimum intervals, according to a new University of Illinois at Chicago ...

MicroRNA in human saliva may help diagnose oral cancer

Aug 25, 2009

Researchers continue to add to the diagnostic alphabet of saliva by identifying the presence of at least 50 microRNAs that could aid in the detection of oral cancer, according to a report in Clinical Cancer Research, a jour ...

Recommended for you

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

1 hour ago

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

14 hours ago

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...