Microbial ecology. 2021-11-01; 82.4: 1030-1046.

Oral Microbial Species and Virulence Factors Associated with Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Torralba MG, Aleti G, Li W, Moncera KJ, Lin YH, Yu Y, Masternak MM, Golusinski W, Golusinski P, Lamperska K, Edlund A, Freire M, Nelson KE

PMID: 33155101


The human microbiome has been the focus of numerous research efforts to elucidate the pathogenesis of human diseases including cancer. Oral cancer mortality is high when compared with other cancers, as diagnosis often occurs during late stages. Its prevalence has increased in the USA over the past decade and accounts for over 40,000 new cancer patients each year. Additionally, oral cancer pathogenesis is not fully understood and is likely multifactorial. To unravel the relationships that are associated with the oral microbiome and their virulence factors, we used 16S rDNA and metagenomic sequencing to characterize the microbial composition and functional content in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) tumor tissue, non-tumor tissue, and saliva from 18 OSCC patients. Results indicate a higher number of bacteria belonging to the Fusobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes phyla associated with tumor tissue when compared with all other sample types. Additionally, saliva metaproteomics revealed a significant increase of Prevotella in five OSCC subjects, while Corynebacterium was mostly associated with ten healthy subjects. Lastly, we determined that there are adhesion and virulence factors associated with Streptococcus gordonii as well as from known oral pathogens belonging to the Fusobacterium genera found mostly in OSCC tissues. From these results, we propose that not only will the methods utilized in this study drastically improve OSCC diagnostics, but the organisms and specific virulence factors from the phyla detected in tumor tissue may be excellent biomarkers for characterizing disease progression.