Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Clinical Epigenetics


Background: Gingivo-buccal oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC-GB) is the most common cancer among men in India and is associated with high mortality. Although OSCC-GB is known to be quite different from tongue cancer in its genomic presentation and its clinical behavior, it is treated identically as tongue cancer. Predictive markers of prognosis and therapy that are specific to OSCC-GB are, therefore, required. Although genomic drivers of OSCC-GB have been identified by whole exome and whole genome sequencing, no epigenome-wide study has been conducted in OSCC-GB; our study has filled this gap, and has discovered and validated epigenomic hallmarks of gingivobuccal oral cancer. Methods: We have carried out integrative analysis of epigenomic (n = 87) and transcriptomic (n = 72) profiles of paired tumor-normal tissues collected from OSCC-GB patients from India. Genome-wide DNA methylation assays and RNA-sequencing were performed on high-throughput platforms (Illumina) using a half-sample of randomly selected patients to discover significantly differentially methylated probes (DMPs), which were validated on the remaining half-sample of patients. Results: About 200 genes showed significant inverse correlation between promoter methylation and expression, of which the most significant genes included genes that act as transcription factors and genes associated with other cancer types. Novel findings of this study include identification of (a) potential immunosuppressive effect in OSCC-GB due to significant promoter hypomethylation driven upregulation of CD274 and CD80, (b) significant dysregulation by epigenetic modification of DNMT3B (upregulation) and TET1 (downregulation); and (c) known drugs that can reverse the direction of dysregulation of gene expression caused by promoter methylation. Conclusions: In OSCC-GB patients, there are significant alterations in expression of key genes that (a) regulate normal cell division by maintenance of balanced DNA methylation and transcription process, (b) maintain normal physiological signaling (PPAR, B cell receptor) and metabolism (arachidonic acid) pathways, and (c) provide immune protection against antigens, including tumor cells. These findings indicate novel therapeutic targets, including immunotherapeutic, for treatment of OSCC-GB.



Publication Date



Open Access, Gold, Green