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New biomarker for oral cancer found

By Dental Tribune International
November 19, 2013

TORONTO, Canada: In collaboration with a team of international researchers, scientists at the University of Toronto have identified a protein that could help predict whether a patient is at risk of developing oral cancer. They hope that their findings will contribute to an early and more personalized treatment to spare the patient unnecessary discomfort, overtreatment and costs.

Conventionally, biomarkers are identified using a cell's DNA. The current study, however, focuses on specific cellular proteins.

According to the researchers, the S100A7 protein could be a predictive biomarker for premalignant oral lesions, which can lead to cancer. In a study of 110 patients with proven oral dysplasia, they found that patients showing an overexpression of S100A7 in their cytoplasm had a reduced oral cancer-free survival rate (69 months) compared with patients who only had weak or no cytoplasmic S100A7 (123 months).

"We are extremely pleased to have identified a protein that can predict which oral dysplastic lesions will transform. This will be a great tool to find out which patient really needs closer follow-up, and in time this will lead to better survival," said Dr. Paul Walfish from Mount Sinai Hospital, which is affiliated with the university.

Currently, the team is exploring how protein markers can help diagnosis and prognosis of other epithelial cancers. For instance, they have used their approach to identify biomarkers for types of breast and thyroid cancer.

The study, titled "S100A7 Overexpression is a Predictive Marker for High Risk of Malignant Transformation in Oral Dysplasia," was published online on Oct. 8 in the International Journal of Cancer ahead of print.

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