Characterization of Cancer Stem Cells in Moderately Differentiated Buccal Mucosal Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Authors: Helen H. Yu, Therese Featherston, Swee T. Tan, Alice M. Chibnall, Helen D. Brasch, Paul F. Davis and Tinte Itinteang

Frontiers in Surgery – Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Front Surg 2016;3:46

Cancers in the mouth are the sixth most common cancer worldwide, with over 90% being squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SCCs affect the tongue, the floor of the mouth, the inner cheek region, the hard palate and the jaw.

While cheek (buccal mucosal) SCC (BMSCC) accounts for less than 10% of all mouth cancer in the Western world, it is the most prevalent in South East Asia and South Asia. This cancer has a higher rate of recurrence and has a low survival rate.

It has been proposed that the development and spread of BMSCC is driven by a subpopulation of cancer cells known as cancer stem cells (CSCs). These CSCs can be characterised by the presence of specific marker molecules. They have the ability to self-renew and a greater capacity for tumour growth and a worsening prognosis.

The team at the GMRI showed that there are three distinct subpopulations of CSCs in BMSCC, each with a distinct set of stem cell markers. This study suggests that these CSCs may be a target for treatment.