The Department of Biomedicine

CCBIO seminar: Anne Christine Johannessen

Oral cancer – ongoing research with special focus on tumour microenvironment

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Anne Christine Johannessen
Centre for Cancer Biomarkers, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen

Despite advances in early detection and treatment of oral cancer, mortality from this disease remains high because current therapies are limited by the emergence of secondary field tumours and of therapy resistant recurrences. So far, treatment strategies used against oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) are based on the classical view that a tumour is composed of a homogeneous population of multiplying cells that harbour certain genetic changes responsible for their invasive and metastasizing behaviour. On the other hand it is known that (1) tumours contain heterogeneous cell populations with different self-renewing and regenerative potential, and (2) the local microenvironment (e.g. cancer-associated fibroblasts) plays a significant role on behaviour of tumour cells. Development of novel and more efficient oral cancer treatment strategies that take these factors into consideration is thus required. Our research has three main areas: (1) understanding how the collaborative interactions between human transformed epithelial cells and stromal fibroblasts result in their ability to invade and metastasize; (2) the molecular mechanisms of self-renewal in carcinomas, how they are affected by the tumour microenvironment and how they can be targeted; and (3) to develop a malignancy index that can be used for oral cancer diagnosis and predict oral cancer aggressiveness. This index is based on expression of molecules previously identified by our group as significantly altered in both the tumour and stromal compartment of OSCC.

A glimpse over the research group, the ongoing research and results on these aspects of oral cancer biology will be presented.

Chairperson: Donald Gullberg, CCBIO