Non-invasive screening of a microRNA-based dysregulation signature in oral cancer and oral potentially malignant disorders

Oral Oncol. 2019 Sep;96:113-120. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.07.013. Epub 2019 Jul 18.


Introduction: We have previously shown that oral swirls are a robust source of microRNA protected by extracellular vesicles, potentially useful to detect oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC)-associated molecular aberration.

Objectives: To study a developed dysregulation score and risk classification algorithm based upon a panel of OSCC-associated microRNA in oral swirls from individuals with OSCC and oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMDs).

Materials and methods: An OSCC-associated panel of 5 microRNAs (miR-24; miR-21; miR-99a; let-7c; miR-100;) was quantified by qPCR in 190 individuals with and without mucosal abnormalities, including OSCC (n = 53) and OPMDs (n = 74). Each sample was analyzed using a developed dysregulation score (dSCORE) and risk classification algorithm, allocating a LOW- or HIGH-RISK score. The influence of demographic, systemic, oral health and mucosal disease factors on the developed test was analyzed.

Results: MicroRNA for analysis can be predictably isolated from oral swirls sourced from individuals with a range of demographic, systemic and oral health findings. Utilizing the presence of HIGH-RISK identified OSCC patients with 86.8% sensitivity and 81.5% specificity. Older age and female gender were associated with higher dSCOREs and higher proportions of HIGH-RISK classification amongst individuals with no mucosal abnormalities. The dSCOREs for all subgroups of OPMDs were significantly different from the OSCC group.

Conclusion: This is the first comparison of microRNA sourced from oral swirls from individuals with OPMDs with individuals with and without OSCC. A HIGH-RISK dysregulation signature was found to be accurate in indicating the presence of OSCC and exampled to parallel malignant transformation.

Keywords: Biomarker; Cancer; Dysplasia; Extracellular vesicles; Leukoplakia; Lichen planus; Oral; Potentially malignant; Saliva; microRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs