Researcher Pinpoints Possible Underlying Cause of Metastases in Oral Cancer



A new discovery may change the way oral cancer is treated.

An abnormal immune response could be one of the causes of metastases in oral cancer. The research team, led by Dr. Marco Magalhaes, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry and lead researcher in a study published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research, determined a major connection involving inflammatory response of a certain type of immune cells, called neutrophils, and the spread of oral cancer.

Magalhaes concentrated his analysis on neutrophils. Similar to other immune cells, neutrophils secrete a group of molecules, including TNFa, which is something that regulates how the body responds to inflammation.

Based on the information from the study, oral cancer cells secreted IL8, which is another inflammatory mediator that activates neutrophils. This establishes a large immune-response buildup.

The immune-response loop eventually led to more invasive structures called invadapodia, which are used by cancer cells to invade and metastasize.

Having a complete understanding of the way the immune system interacts with the cancer enables the researchers to manipulate the immune response to set up an anticancer response as opposed to a pro-tumor response.

Ideally, there will eventually be targeted, personalized immunotherapies for patients with oral cancer that could eventually shut down the abnormal immune response.