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ARRA Investments in Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer

Public Health Burden
About 7,600 Americans will die from oral and pharyngeal cancer this year. These deaths are particularly tragic because, in most cases, detection and treatment of early stage oral cancer results in much higher survival rates than if the disease is diagnosed and treated at late stages. On average, less than 60 percent of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years, posing a significant public health problem.

Early Detection
The 5-year survival rate for head and neck cancer patients has improved only marginally over the past 40 years, due largely to difficulties in early detection of the disease. Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed, as frequently there is no associated pain. ARRA investments have allowed for the expansion of programs that focus on new screening and early detection methods to identify oral cancers at their earliest inception. Two grants are a part of the Oral Cancer Genome Project (OCGP), and are designed to develop a comprehensive catalog of the genomic alterations that occur in oral and pharyngeal cancers:
  • The first OCGP grant is focusing on the discovery and validation of genomic changes in oral and oropharyngeal cancer.1
  • Another grant within the Oral Cancer Genome Analysis Project will concentrate on the discovery and validation of genetic changes, specifically in tongue cancers.2
The development of devices for rapid detection of oral premalignant and malignant lesions has the potential to provide clinicians with new tools to identify and manage persons at highest risk for oral cancer. ARRA-funded grants with potential to impact novel preventive strategies and individualized treatment options include:
  • One project looks to validate the usefulness of a panel of biomarkers measured in saliva for predicting local recurrence or survival of head and neck cancer.3
  • Another grant aims to develop a programmable nano-bio-chip for rapid detection of premalignant and malignant lesions, and to validate this non-invasive diagnostic tool to be used by clinicians to manage persons at highest risk for oral cancer.4
Basic Research
In the U.S., approximately 2,500 new cases of salivary gland malignancies are diagnosed each year. There are currently limited therapeutic options for this group of deadly cancers, mainly due to the lack of molecular characterization of these tumors. Basic research is needed to lay the foundation for potential therapeutic options.
  • To meet these challenges, an ARRA grant aims to grow salivary gland tumors obtained from patients in mice, which can be used in experiments to understand the molecular basis of these tumors and to test new forms of therapy.5
  • Another ARRA grant proposes to determine gene expression profiles for the most common salivary cancers, and to create a human-in-mouse model of salivary carcinomas using primary tumors as the starting material. A human-in-mouse model of salivary cancer will be a tool that can be used for drug development and for understanding molecular alterations in these tumors.6

  1. 1RC2DE020957-01 -- Genone-wide Discovery of Molecular Alterations in Head and Neck Cancer -- Sidransky, David -- (MD)
  2. 1RC2DE020958-01 -- Comprehensive Analysis of Genetic Alterations in Oral Cancer -- Myers, Jeffrey Nicholas -- (TX)
  3. 1RC2DE020789-01 -- Validation of epigenetic biomarkers of head and neck cancer progression-OLD -- Califano, Joseph A -- (MD)
  4. 1RC2DE020785-01 -- Monitoring of Oral Cancer Patients Using Novel Lab-on-a-Chip Ensembles -- Mcdevitt, John T -- (TX)
  5. 1RC1DE020687-01 -- Molecular characterization of a human salivary gland tumor xenograft bank -- Moskaluk, Christopher A. -- (VA)
  6. 1RC1DE020332-01 -- Development and Profiling of Human-in-Mouse Models of Salivary Carcinomas -- Yarbrough, Wendell G -- (TN)

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