Research Papers:

Tumor microRNA profile and prognostic value for lymph node metastasis in oral squamous cell carcinoma patients

Kelly Yi Ping Liu, Sarah Yuqi Zhu, Denise Brooks, Reanne Bowlby, J. Scott Durham, Yussanne Ma, Richard A. Moore, Andrew J. Mungall, Steven Jones and Catherine F. Poh _

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Oncotarget. 2020; 11:2204-2215. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27616

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Kelly Yi Ping Liu1,2, Sarah Yuqi Zhu2, Denise Brooks3, Reanne Bowlby3, J. Scott Durham4, Yussanne Ma3, Richard A. Moore5, Andrew J. Mungall6, Steven Jones3 and Catherine F. Poh1,2

1 Department of Oral Medical and Biological Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

2 Department of Integrative Oncology, BC Cancer, Vancouver, Canada

3 Bioinformatics, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center, Vancouver, Canada

4 Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

5 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada

6 Biospecimen & Library Core Group, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center, Vancouver, Canada

Correspondence to:

Catherine F. Poh,email: [email protected]

Keywords: oral squamous cell carcinoma; lymph node metastasis; micro-RNA; primary tumor; prognosis

Received: January 15, 2020     Accepted: May 14, 2020     Published: June 09, 2020


Neck lymph node metastasis (LN+) is one of the most significant prognostic factors affecting 1-in-2 patients diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). The different LN outcomes between clinico-pathologically similar primary tumors suggest underlying molecular signatures that could be associated with the risk of nodal disease development. MicroRNAs (miRNAs)are short non-coding molecules that regulate the expression of their target genes to maintain the balance of cellular processes. A plethora of evidence has indicated that aberrantly expressed miRNAs are involved in cancers with either an antitumor or oncogenic role. In this study, we characterized miRNA expression among OSCC fresh-frozen tumors with known outcomes of nodal disease (82 LN+, 76 LN0). We identified 49 differentially expressed miRNAs in tumors of the LN+ group. Using penalized lasso Cox regression, we identified a group of 10 miRNAs of which expression levels were highly associated with nodal-disease free survival. We further reported a 4-miRNA panel (miR-21-5p, miR-107, miR-1247-3p, and miR-181b-3p) with high accuracy in discriminating LN status, suggesting their potential application as prognostic biomarkers for nodal disease.

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