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Br J Cancer. 2011 Mar 1;104(5):830-40. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.29. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Different miRNA signatures of oral and pharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas: a prospective translational study.

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Department of Oto-rhino-laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 9, Copenhagen 2100, Denmark.



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs, which regulate mRNA translation/decay, and may serve as biomarkers. We characterised the expression of miRNAs in clinically sampled oral and pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC and PSCC) and described the influence of human papilloma virus (HPV).


Biopsies obtained from 51 patients with OSCC/PSCC and 40 control patients were used for microarray analysis. The results were correlated to clinical data and HPV status. Supervised learning by support vector machines was employed to generate a diagnostic miRNA signature.


One hundred and fourteen miRNAs were differentially expressed between OSCC and normal oral epithelium, with the downregulation of miR-375 and upregulation of miR-31 as the most significant aberrations. Pharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma exhibited 38 differentially expressed miRNAs compared with normal pharyngeal epithelium. Differences in the miRNA expression pattern of both normal epithelium and SCC were observed between the oral cavity compared with the pharynx. Human papilloma virus infection revealed perturbations of 21 miRNAs, most significantly in miR-127-3p and miR363. A molecular classifier including 61 miRNAs was generated for OSCC with an accuracy of 93%.


MicroRNAs may serve as useful biomarkers in OSCC and PSCC. The influence of HPV on miRNA may provide a mechanism for the distinct clinical behaviour of HPV-infected tumours.

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