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Protein molecule may hold key to oral cancer treatments

A protein molecule known as a cytokine that encourages the inflammatory process in such diseases as arthritis, atherosclerosis and osteoporosis may prove key in the development of oral cancer treatments, according to Taiwanese researchers.

As reported online in the journal Molecular Cancer Research in August, National Cheng Kung University scientists explored the function of a cytokine called Interleukin-20 (or IL-20) in the tumor progression of oral cancer. They evaluated IL-20 levels in tumorous and nontumorous oral tissue samples from 40 patients with four different stages of oral cancer. The clinical results indicated that the cytokine was more highly expressed in oral tumor tissue than in nontumor tissue.

The scientist delved further to determine how IL-20 acted in two oral cancer cell lines and found that it promoted tumor-associated inflammation and tumor growth and migration.

They then evaluated the ability of an antibody known as 7E to counter IL-20’s cancer-promoting effect on oral cancer cells. They found that 7E reduced inflammation and tumor growth in oral cancer cells, leading them to anticipate that 7E may lead to future therapies for oral cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30,000 cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. The ADA has information resources on oral cancer on its consumer information website

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