Tongue squamous cell carcinoma, one of the most frequent oral cancers, increased more than 37% in the last five years. A new study by the University of Illinois at Chicago…

Genetics and Dental
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Scientists Hope to Learn More About Cancer-Controlling Gene

Tongue squamous cell carcinoma, one of the most frequent oral cancers, increased more than 37% in the last five years. A new study by the University of Illinois at Chicago shows that if certain genes can be altered, it could stunt the spread of these cancerous cells on the tongue.

Altered Genes

Oral or pharyngeal cancer will cause more than 8,000 deaths this year, approximately one per hour. This rate has not really improved in several decades, according to The Oral Cancer Foundation. The death rate for this cancer is higher than that of many other familiar cancers. Research on the contribution of altered genes previously focused primarily on those that encoded proteins, but a new study concentrates on a noncoding type called microRNA-138.

Scientists believe that these tiny molecules, along with other microRNAs, contribute to the spread of several types of cancer.  After the information for the gene has been translated to RNA, the RNA molecules can control how a target gene expresses itself.  These molecules stimulate the tongue squamous cell carcinoma to aggression. This new research related the heightened ability of these cells to spread with a decreased level of microRNA-138.

Dental Research

Lead researcher Xiaofeng Zhou, assistant professor in the University’s Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases, said that in order to increase patient survival rates, medical professionals must learn more about how cancer spreads so that they can develop specific therapies with which to attack hostile tumors.

Since more than 90% of all oral cancer is some type of squamous cell carcinoma, this could potentially be a major breakthrough to help advance the study, diagnosis and treatment of the deadly disease. This variety generally begins in the tissues on the tongue, the gums and the floor of the mouth.

Cancer occurs when certain cells grow uncontrollably.The Latest Cancer News blog gives a great description:

Genetic abnormalities found in cancer typically affect two general classes of genes. Cancer-promoting oncogenes are typically activated in cancer cells, giving those cells new properties, such as hyperactive growth and division, protection against programmed cell death, loss of respect for normal tissue boundaries, and the ability to become established in diverse tissue environments. Tumor suppressor genes are then inactivated in cancer cells, resulting in the loss of normal functions in those cells, such as accurate DNA replication, control over the cell cycle, orientation and adhesion within tissues, and interaction with protective cells of the immune system.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of oral cancer may include one or more of several indications like loose teeth, problems swallowing, red or white lesions in the mouth, an oral wound that will not heal or a lump in the mouth. If any of these have occurred persistently, a dentist should examine the situation and determine the problem. This should occur as soon as possible, because if the dentist finds a cancerous tumor, early treatment tends to be more effective.

Oral health professionals commonly treat oral cancer using chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy or some combination of these. By the end of the year 2010, the American Cancer Society projects that approximately 35,000 Americans will have been diagnosed with oral cancer.

The study can be found in the International Journal of Cancer.

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