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New approach to early diagnosis of oral cancer

Along with researchers from Australia and Norway, a research team at Aarhus University has found a new, simple and non-invasive method to diagnose oral cancer at an early stage, one of the most important parameters for successful treatment of the cancer.

2011.11.30 | Lisbeth Heilesen

Three of the Danish researchers (from left: Jørgen Kjems, Shan Gao and Jesper Bramsen) behind the new, simple and non-invasive method to diagnose oral cancer at an early stage. Click photo for enlargement. Photo: Lisbeth Heilesen

A description of the various steps of the new method to diagnose oral cancer at an early stage. The next step is to develop a kit for clinical use. Click figure for enlargement. Figure: Shan Gao

When diagnosing oral cancer today, the doctor normally takes a tissue sample (biopsy), which is examined under the microscope in a laboratory. This procedure is invasive, slow and too cumbersome for general screening of the public.

The researchers have now found a new, non-invasive method that can speed up the process tremendously. It simply requires a mouth rinse or a small sample of saliva from the patient. The content of the so-called microRNA (miRNA) can then be elucidated by a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which can indicate whether or not the patient has cancer. In addition, the level of DNA modifications is determined in selected regions.

If the test shows a significant low level of miR-375 molecules or/and DNA hypermethylation of the miR-200c/141 region, then there is a probability that the patient has cancer.

The steps of the new method are described in the figure.

The discovery of these new markers of oral cancer has provided the concept of a new diagnostic tool and the next step is to develop a kit for clinical use.


The results of the collaborative work among five groups from Australia, Norway and Denmark were recently published in PloS One in an article entitled: MicroRNA Alterations and Associated Aberrant DNA Methylation Patterns across Multiple Sample Types in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

More information

Senior Scientist Shan Gao
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/iNANO, Aarhus University, Denmark
shg@mb.au.dk
, +45 6133 6006.

or

Professor Jørgen Kjems
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics/iNANO, Aarhus University, Denmark
jk@mb.au.dk
, +45 2899 2086

Text: Shan Gao and Lisbeth Heilesen

Translation: Lisbeth Heilesen

Public / media, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics