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Glycobiology. 2019 Jun 27. pii: cwz046. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwz046. [Epub ahead of print]

Salivary N-glycosyalation as a biomarker of Oral Cancer: A pilot study.

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School of Dental Science, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.
NIBRT-The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland.
School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Reliable biomarkers for oral cancer remain scarce and routine tests for the detection of pre-cancerous lesions are not routine in the clinical setting. This study addresses a current unmet need for more sensitive and quantitative tools for the management of oral cancer. Whole saliva was used to identify and characterise the nature of glycans present in saliva and determine their potential as oral cancer biomarkers. Proteins obtained from whole saliva were subjected to PNGase F enzymatic digestion. The resulting N-glycans were analysed with weak anion exchange chromatography, exoglycosidase digestions coupled to ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) and/or mass spectrometry (MS). To determine N-glycan changes, 23 individuals with or without cancerous oral lesions were analysed using HILIC-UPLC and peak based area relative quantitation was performed. An abundant and complex salivary N-glycomic profile was identified. The main structures present in saliva were neutral oligosaccharides consisting of high mannose, hybrid and complex structures, followed by smaller fractions of mono and di-sialylated structures. To determine if differential N-glycosylation patterns distinguish between oral cancer and control groups, Mann-Whitney testing and Principle Component Analysis (PCA) were used. 11 peaks were shown to be statistically significant (p ≤ 0.05) while PCA analysis showed segregation of the two groups based on their glycan profile. N-glycosylation changes are active in the oral carcinogenic process, and may serve as biomarkers for early detection to reduce morbidity and mortality. Identifying which N-glycans contribute most in the carcinogenic process, may lead to their use in the detection, prognosis and treatment of OC.


Biomarkers; Cancer biology; Glycobiology; Prevention; Translational research


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