Authors: Rebecca Towle, Christopher T. D. Dickman, Sara A. MacLellan, Jiahua Chen, Eitan Prisman, Martial Guillaud & Cathie Garnis (Garnis Lab).

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Survival rates for oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) have remained poor for decades, a fact largely attributable to late-stage diagnoses and high recurrence rates. We report analysis of serum miRNA expression in samples from patients with high-risk oral lesions (HRL, including OSCC/carcinoma in situ lesions) and healthy non-cancer controls, with the aim of non-invasively detecting primary or recurrent disease before it is clinically evident.


Discovery, test, and validation sets were defined from a total of 468 serum samples (305 HRL and 163 control samples). Samples were analysed using multiple qRT-PCR platforms.


A two-miRNA classifier comprised of miR-125b-5p and miR-342-3p was defined following discovery and test analyses. Analysis in an independent validation cohort reported sensitivity and specificity of ~74% for this classifier. Significantly, when this classifier was applied to serial serum samples taken from patients both before treatment and during post-treatment surveillance, it identified recurrence an average of 15 months prior to clinical presentation.


These results indicate this serum miRNA classifier is effective as a simple, non-invasive monitoring tool for earlier detection of recurrent disease when lesions are typically smaller and amenable to a wider array of treatment options to improve survival.

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