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Open Access Research article

Progress risk assessment of oral premalignant lesions with saliva miRNA analysis

Ya Yang1, Yue-xiu Li2, Xi Yang3, Long Jiang1, Zuo-jun Zhou1 and Ya-qin Zhu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Dentistry, Ninth People’s Hospital, School of Stomatology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine,Shanghai Key Laboratory of Stomatology, 639 Zhi Zao Ju Road, Shanghai, 200011, China

2 Department of Stomatology, Tai’an Central Hospital, Tai’an, Shandong, 271000, China

3 Department of Oral & Maxillofacial-Head & Neck Oncology, Ninth People’s Hospital, School of Stomatology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai Key Laboratory of Stomatology and Shanghai Research Institute of Stomatology, Shanghai, 200011, China

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:129  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-129

Published: 19 March 2013



Oral cancer develops through multi-stages: from normal to mild (low grade) dysplasia (LGD), moderate dysplasia, and severe (high grade) dysplasia (HGD), to carcinoma in situ (CIS) and finally invasive oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC). Clinical and histological assessments are not reliable in predicting which precursor lesions will progress. The aim of this study was to assess the potential of a noninvasive approach to assess progress risk of oral precancerous lesions.


We first used microRNA microarray to profile progressing LGD oral premaligant lesions (OPLs) from non-progressing LGD OPLs in order to explore the possible microRNAs deregulated in low grade OPLs which later progressed to HGD or OSCC. We then used RT-qPCR to detect miRNA targets from the microarray results in saliva samples of these patients.


We identified a specific miRNA signature that is aberrantly expressed in progressing oral LGD leukoplakias. Similar expression patterns were detected in saliva samples from these patients.


These results show promise for using saliva miRNA signature for monitoring of cancer precursor lesions and early detection of disease progression.

Oral leukoplakia; Malignant transformation; Risk assessment; miRNAs; Salivary biomarker