Research Highlight

New therapeutic target for oral cancer

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.29 Published online 21 February 2013

Researchers have identified high levels of a new, faulty biomarker protein in oral cancer patients1. This biomarker protein belongs to a class of enzymes called phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases (PI3K). This class of enzymes regulates several cellular functions, including proliferation, growth of blood vessels and survival.

This faulty protein can act as a therapeutic target and could be used in the diagnosis of oral cancers.

Oral cancers are one of the ten most common cancers in the world. In India, they are among the most common cancers, representing a major public health problem. Various forms of faulty PI3K protein have been linked to breast and cervical cancers. However, no previous studies have investigated the roles of such faulty proteins in oral cancers.

In the hope of finding a link to oral cancers, the researchers recruited 108 patients suffering from oral squamous cell carcinoma associated with tobacco addiction. They then collected cell samples from the oral cavities of patients and looked for a faulty form of the PI3K protein known as PI3Kp110α and compared samples from oral cancer patients and normal individuals.

The study found significantly higher levels of faulty PI3K in cancer patients than in normal people. Unlike healthy individuals, this marker protein was overexpressed in the lining of the cheeks and back of the lips in cancer patients.

The researchers say that this biomarker protein might offer a significant prognostic indicator and a suitable target for chemo-preventive strategies against tobacco-related oral cancer.

The authors of this work are from: Department of Biotechnology, Department of Pathology, and Department of Surgical Oncology, BRA-Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi, India.


  1. Garg, R. et al. Abnormal expression of PI3K isoforms in patients with tobacco-related oral squamous cell carcinoma. Clin. Chim. Acta. 416, 100-106 (2013)  | Article | PubMed |