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Oral Oncol. 2008 Apr;44(4):315-24. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

The hamster model of sequential oral oncogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of Athens Medical School, Kifissias and Perikleous Stavrou 9, Athens 11521, Greece.


Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is a common cancer characterised by low survival rate and poor prognosis. The multistep process of oral carcinogenesis is affected by multiple genetic events such as alterations of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes. The use of appropriate experimental animal models that accurately represent the cellular and molecular changes which are associated with the initiation and progression of human oral cancer is of crucial importance. The Syrian golden hamster cheek pouch oral carcinogenesis model is the best known animal system that closely correlates events involved in the development of premalignant and malignant human oral cancers. Therefore, we established an experimental system of chemically induced oral carcinogenesis in hamsters, in order to study different stages of tumour formation: normal mucosa, hyperkeratosis, hyperplasia, dysplasia, early invasion, well differentiated OSCC and moderately differentiated OSCC. We investigated the expression of oncogenes EGFR, erbB2, erbB3, FGFR-2, FGFR-3, c-myc, N-ras, ets-1, H-ras, c-fos and c-jun, apoptosis markers Bax and Bcl-2, tumour suppressor genes p53 and p16, and cell proliferation marker Ki-67 in the sequential stages of hamster oral oncogenesis. Here, we describe the findings of the experimental model in regard to the involvement of signal transduction pathways in every stage of cancer development. Increased apoptosis and cell proliferation were observed in early stages of oral oncogenesis. Furthermore, the increased expression of transmembrane receptors (EGFR, erbB2, FGFR-2 and FGFR-3) as well as the increased expression of nuclear transcriptional factors in early stages of oral cancer indicates that these molecules may be used as early prognostic factors for the progression of OSCC. Since the expression of both H-ras and N-ras do not seem to affect signal transduction during oral oncogenesis, it can be assumed that a different signalling pathway, such as the PI3K and/or PLCgamma pathway, may be implicated in the pathogenesis of OSCC.

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