The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the NIH, has awarded a two-year, $245,000 grant to a New York University dental research team to identify bacteria in the oral cavity that may be associated with oral cancer. The team will collaborate with researchers at the NYU School of Medicine and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.The principal investigator, Dr. Deepak Saxena, an assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD), said that the pilot study will compare the bacterial profiles of healthy, premalignant, and malignant oral tissue. Samples will be collected from 35 patients at NYUCD and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Deepak SaxenaDr. Saxena will use genetic sequencing to identify the bacteria present in each sample and to assess which of the bacteria spur an inflammatory process known to be associated with the development of oral cancer. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a risk assessment protocol for oral cancer based on the bacterial profile of premalignant lesions and malignant tumors,” said Dr. Saxena. Plans call for a follow-up study involving a larger number of tissue samples.Dr. Saxena’s co-investigators include Dr. Zoya Kurago, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology & medicine; Dr. Yihong Li, professor of basic science & craniofacial biology; Dr. Robert G. Norman, research associate professor of epidemiology & health promotion; and Dr. Peter Sacks, professor of basic science & craniofacial biology, all of NYUCD. Additional co-investigators include Dr. Stuart M. Brown, associate professor of cell biology at the NYU School of Medicine, and Dr. Chery Estilo, attending dentist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute Dental Service.