Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2023 Sep 8. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-23-0219. Online ahead of print.
Tobacco use is implicated in the carcinogenesis of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), which is associated with poor survival if not diagnosed early. Identification of novel non-invasive, highly sensitive, and cost-effective diagnostic and risk assessment methods for OSCC would improve early detection. Here, we report a pilot study assessing salivary and serum miRNAs associated with OSCC and stratified by smoking status. Saliva and paired serum samples were collected from 23 OSCC patients and 21 healthy volunteers, with an equal number of smokers and non-smokers in each group. Twenty head and neck cancer-related miRNAs were quantified by qPCR (dual-labeled LNA probes) and analyzed by Welch’s t-test (95% confidence interval). Four saliva miRNAs, miR-21, miR-136, miR-3928, and miR-29B, showed statistically significant overexpression in OSCC versus healthy controls (p<0.05). MicorRNA-21 was statistically significantly overexpressed in OSCC smokers versus non-smokers (p=0.006). Salivary miR-21, miR-136, and miR-3928, and serum miR-21 and miR-136, showed statistically significant differential expression in early-stage tumors versus controls (p<0.05), particularly miR-21 in smokers (p<0.005). This pilot study provides a novel panel of saliva and serum miRNAs associated with oral cancer. Further validation as a potential useful index of oral cancer, particularly miR-21 in smokers and early-stage OSCC is warranted.