Each year an estimated 400,000 people globally, among them 30,000 Americans, are newly diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Of the newly diagnosed oral cancer cases, ~80% are in the tumor- node-metastasis (TNM) Stage I/II without regional lymph node involvement or distant metastasis. For these early-stage oral cancer patients, the five-year survival rate is estimated to be 60%. Currently, there is no means to distinguish 60% of early-stage patients who will most likely survive from the 40% who are at high-risk for cancer-specific death. As 80% of oral cancer patients are in early stage at the time of diagnosis, a window of opportunity exists in which accurate prognostication and subsequent decisions for proper treatment will dramatically improve 5-year survival of patients with this deadly disease. We have previously discovered microRNA (miRNA) signatures, miRNA-375 and 214-3p, using next generation sequencing that have high prognostic power to identify individuals at increased risk for cancer-specific death. In the current proposal, we aim to develop, refine and validate the miRNA-based prognostic model of 5-year cancer survival and to identify optimal therapeutic strategy for the high and low risk strata.
In Aim 1, using a retrospective study design, we will discover prognostic miRNA signatures using next-generation sequencing and validated in the independent internal validation cohort from Columbia University Medical Center using qRT-PCR in early-stage oral cancer patients treated with surgery only. We will develop a miRNA-based prognostic model consisting of miRNA signatures and prognostically significant clinico-demographic covariates. We will then externally validate the miRNA-based prognostic model in a second, independent cohort from the NCI-sponsored Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN). Moreover, we will construct and validate a cancer-specific mortality risk score formula, which is personalized formula consisting of the patient?s miRNA expression levels and the clinico- demographic covariates, weighted by their respective regression coefficient.
In Aim 2, we will identify treatment regimens (elective neck dissection, radiation therapy, or elective neck dissection with radiotherapy following surgery of primary tumor) associated with survival benefit in high and low risk groups, stratified based on the miRNA-based prognostic model developed in Aim 1. This R01 proposal describes a 4-year research project aimed at developing clinically applicable strategy in personalized molecular management of early-stage OSCC patients.

Public Health Relevance

About half of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die of disease within 5 years, causing more than 8,000 deaths annually in United States. This is partially due to lack of mechanism to predict which cancer patients may or may not fare well following the initial surgery, which is crucial in deciding the subsequent treatment procedure. We are working to build a reliable clinical test that can identify those with poor prognosis and also the best treatment for those with poor prognosis, so that the overall cancer survival rate can be greatly improved.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Cancer Biomarkers Study Section (CBSS)
Program Officer
Wang, Chiayeng
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Columbia University (N.Y.)
Schools of Dentistry/Oral Hygn
New York
United States
Zip Code