The role of miRNA in oral mucosal disorders

Project Details

Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma (OSCC) is the sixth most common malignancy in Australia. The five-year survival rate after diagnosis is 50%.
Early diagnosis of oral cancer remains a big challenge,histopathological assessment has been shown to not be ideal for predicting how particular
oral lesions will behave in the future.
MicroRNA are noncoding RNAs 19-22 nucleoties in length. They play a role in controlling gene expression and have been of interest in
association with oral mucosal disease including malignancy. The hypothesis of this research is that changes in microRNA levels will be
predictive of the malignant potential of oral mucosal conditions.
MicroRNA can be collected from epithelial cells and extracellular vesicles  found in  saliva.
To assess for variation in microRNA levels, 150 patients who are receiving a mucosal biopsy for mucosal abnormalities in which malignancy may be a potential diagnosis
will be enrolled. Collection of patient characteristics will be completed by a verbal questionnaire and inspection of existing clinical records.
Epithelial cells will be collected using a dermatological curette and placed in RNAlater solution. Saliva will be collected by a 30 second
mouth swirl of deionized water.
The purpose of this study is to assess if a new method of analysing mouth samples has value as a clinical prognostic indicator for presentations
of mucosal disease with associated malignant potential. Further, establishment of a reproducible, noninvasive, time efficient collection method
of representative tissue will adjunct this clinical tool.


Prof Michael McCullough, Head of Oral Medicine, Melbourne Dental School University of Melbourne

A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Director of Head and Neck Tumour Stream, Dept of Surgery RMH

A/Prof Alf Nastri, Director of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, RMH

Dr Chris Angel, Department of Pathology Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Tami Yap, PhD Candidate, Melbourne Dental School, The University of Melbourne


Melbourne Dental School


Australian Dental Research Foundation
Australia & New Zealand Head & Neck Cancer Society Research Foundation

Research Group

Honorary Appointments’ Research Projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cancer in Medicine

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre


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