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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2019 Apr 27;139:31-40. doi: 10.1016/j.critrevonc.2019.04.018. [Epub ahead of print]

Culture-independent studies on bacterial dysbiosis in oral and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: A systematic review.

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Faculty of Dentistry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.
International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Trivandrum, India.
Faculty of Dentistry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China. Electronic address:
Faculty of Dentistry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China; Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia; Dental Institute, King's College London, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Imbalance within the resident bacterial community (dysbiosis), rather than the presence and activity of a single organism, has been proposed to be associated with, and to influence, the development and progression of various diseases; however, the existence and significance of dysbiosis in oral/oropharyngeal cancer is yet to be clearly established. A systematic search (conducted on 25/01/2018 and updated on 25/05/2018) was performed on three databases (Pubmed, Web of Science & Scopus) to identify studies employing culture-independent methods which investigated the bacterial community in oral/oropharyngeal cancer patients compared to control subjects. Of the 1546 texts screened, only fifteen publications met the pre-determined selection criteria. Data extracted from 731 cases and 809 controls overall, could not identify consistent enrichment of any particular taxon in oral/oropharyngeal cancers, although common taxa could be identified between studies. Six studies reported the enrichment of Fusobacteria in cancer at different taxonomic levels whereas four studies reported an increase in Parvimonas. Changes in microbial diversity remained inconclusive, with four studies showing a higher diversity in controls, three studies showing a higher diversity in tumors and three additional studies showing no difference between tumors and controls. Even though most studies identified a component of dysbiosis in oral/oropharyngeal cancer, methodological and analytical variations prevented a standardized summary, which highlights the necessity for studies of superior quality and magnitude employing standardized methodology and reporting. Indeed an holistic metagenomic approach is likely to be more meaningful, as is understanding of the overall metabolome, rather than a mere enumeration of the organisms present.


16S rRNA sequencing; Bacteria; Bacterial dysbiosis; Head and neck cancer; Microbiome; Oral cancer

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