DMBT1 Dysregulation Linked to Worse Head and Neck SCC Outcomes

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is considered both aggressive and difficult to treat. In fact, doctors estimate that nearly 50% of all patients will eventually see the recurrence of or new formation of tumors. But according to Medical XPress, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry may have figured out why this happens and how to address it. DMBT1 is a gene silenced during the development of oral cancer. Researchers questioned whether this gene could also play a role in head and neck SCC. Check out the full study findings published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

DMBT1 Dysregulation

According to UniProtDMBT1:

May be considered as a candidate tumor suppressor gene for brain, lung, esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers. May play roles in mucosal defense system, cellular immune defense and epithelial differentiation.

Because it is silenced in oral cancer, researchers wondered whether DMBT1 suppression could spur more aggressive head and neck cancer. To test this hypothesis, they first explored DMBT1 impact in mice and chick embryos. Researchers found that suppressing DMBT1 caused cancer to invade other cells and more aggressively spread. Additionally, tumors which over-expressed DMBT1 did not spread, while those with low DMBT1 or silenced DMBT1 did spread.

Next, researchers explored DMBT1 suppression in human cell cultures. Again, researchers determined that DMBT1 silencing caused more aggressive metastasis. Further, researchers determined that certain proteins help to inhibit DMBT1 expression. As explained in the study findings:

Cancer cells via TGFβ1 and TNFα also suppress DMBT1 in adjacent histologically normal epithelium, thereby subverting it to promote invasion of a small population of tumor cells.

Basically, TGFβ1 and TNFα allow cancer cells to hide underneath healthy tissue. Ultimately, this continues the cancer’s proliferation and allows it to further metastasize. Thus, finding ways to prevent cancerous cells from communicating with healthy cells is crucial to treat head and neck SCC. These findings could also spur further research and development into DMBT1 regulating therapies.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that make up the top layer of our skin. Altogether, SCC is the 2nd most common form of skin cancer. It can occur throughout the body, including the skin, lungs, mouth, or throat. Additionally, SCC makes up around 90% of all head and neck cancers. Risk factors for SCC include being fair-skinned, being immunocompromised, having a history of HPV or skin cancer, being male, age (50+), UV ray exposure, and chronic infections. Typically, symptoms of SCC appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin. However, SCC can also affect genitalia or other “hidden” areas.

When detected early, SCC can be treated. It is extremely important to pursue treatment as, without treatment, SCC may spread deeper into the skin, even causing fatal reactions. Thus, if you find or notice any potential symptoms, please visit your doctor. Symptoms of SCC include:

  • A firm red nodule
  • Raised growths with a depression in the middle
  • A flat sore with a scaly crust
    • Note: These scaly patches are often reddened.
  • Thickened or “wart-like” skin
  • A new sore or area under an old sore or ulcer
  • A rough patch on your lip or inside of your mouth
  • Lesions that may crust or bleed

Head or Neck SCC

As described above, researchers determined DMBT1 dysregulation plays a role in the development of head or neck SCC. Typically, head or neck SCC occurs in the mouth, throat, nasal cavity, sinuses, or larynx.

While patients may experience some of the symptoms above, this cancer may also manifest in additional symptoms. These include:

  • A lump in the throat, mouth, or neck
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Continued congestion
  • Earache
  • Difficulty swallowing and/or painful swallowing
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Mouth or throat ulcers
  • Unusual oral bleeding
  • Vocal changes such as hoarseness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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