Studying mouth cancer in mice, researchers have found a way to predict the aggressiveness of similar tumors in people, an early step toward a diagnostic test that could guide treatment, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"All patients with advanced head and neck cancer get similar treatments," said Ravindra Uppaluri, MD, PhD, associate professor of otolaryngology. "We have patients who do well on standard combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, and patients who don't do so well. We're interested in finding out why."
Reporting in Clinical Cancer Research, the investigators found a consistent pattern of gene expression associated with tumor spreading in mice. Analyzing genetic data from human oral cancer samples, they also found this gene signature in people with aggressive metastatic tumors.
"We didn't automatically assume this mouse model would be relevant to human oral cancer," said Uppaluri, who performs head and neck surgeries at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "But it turns out to be highly reflective of the disease in people."
Rather than use genetic methods to induce tumors in the mice, the research team repeatedly applied a known carcinogen, in much the same way humans develop cancer of the mouth.
"Patients often have a history of tobacco and alcohol use, which drive the development of these tumors," Uppaluri said. "We felt that exposing the mice to a carcinogen would be more likely to produce similar kinds of tumors."
The researchers, including first author Michael D. Onken, PhD, research assistant professor of cell biology and physiology, showed that this exposure sometimes produced tumors in the mice that did not spread, but other times resulted in aggressive metastatic tumors, similar to the variety of tumors seen in people. Uppaluri's team then collaborated with Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute at Washington Un
|Contact: Julia Evangelou Strait|
Washington University School of Medicine