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UC researcher receives grant to study cancer-detecting mouthwash

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) are investigating whether certain molecular markers that can be collected from simple mouthwash samples can help in identifying throat and mouth cancers.

Scott Langevin, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health and a member of both the Cincinnati Cancer Center (CCC) and UC Cancer Institute, was recently awarded $782,000 from the American Cancer Society to continue his research which will hopefully assist in use of a certain oral rinse to catch recurrence of these types of cancers in their earliest stages.

He originally received a National Cancer Institute K22 award to begin this study.

"In 2017, mouth and throat cancer, otherwise known as oral and pharyngeal cancer, accounted for an estimated 49,670 new cancer diagnoses and 9,700 cancer-related deaths in the U.S., and the outcomes for patients with this cancer is relatively poor. About half of these patients will have cancer recurrence within two years of treatment,” Langevin says. "Earlier detection of recurrent tumors is associated with better clinical outcomes, so there is a clear need for new tests that can help facilitate early detection.”

Langevin says that researchers in his lab previously identified a biomarker panel made up of 22 regions of DNA; based on the amount of a certain molecule attached to these regions—a process called DNA methylation—scientists could identify the presence of mouth and throat cancer with a high level of accuracy by using non-invasive oral rinse (mouthwash) samples.

"With this project, we hope to evaluate the potential of this oral rinse methylation panel as a clinical tool for early detection of cancer recurrence following diagnosis and treatment,” he says. "This will hopefully help us develop a new test that can reduce the impact of these cancers.”

Langevin adds that his team will take a deep look into methylation within the tumors themselves to enhance understanding of the prevalence and extent of these alterations in mouth and throat cancers.

"Facilitated by my clinical co-investigators, Dr. Trisha Wise-Draper and Dr. Alice Tang, we will identify and recruit a cohort of patients who have been diagnosed with mouth and throat cancers and will regularly collect oral rinse samples, roughly every three months for two-years, following their initial diagnosis and treatment,” he says. "Our team will catalog the methylation patterns across the 22 regions that make up our biomarker panel and document how they impact gene expression by applying DNA and RNA sequencing techniques on matched tumor and normal tissue from mouth and throat cancer patients.”

Langevin says his team will assess the potential use of the oral rinse methylation panel as a tool for early detection of cancer recurrence during the first two years of post-treatment patient follow-up.

"This has clear clinical relevance and could serve as a beneficial tool for early detection and subsequent early intervention of these very serious cancers, potentially improving outcomes for patients,” he says.  

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Wed, July 10, 2019

CINCINNATI—Adolescent girls who reach puberty at an earlier age may also have a greater chance of developing migraine headaches, according to new research from investigators at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. “We know that the percentage of girls and boys who have migraine is pretty much the same until menstruation begins,” says Vincent Martin, MD, professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “When the menstrual period starts in girls, the prevalence goes way up, but what our data suggests is that it occurs even before that.” The findings will be presented by Martin at the American Headache Society 61st Annual Scientific Meeting Saturday, July 13, in Philadelphia. Nationally, about 10 percent of school age children suffer from migraine, according to the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF). As adolescence approaches, the incidence of migraine increases rapidly in girls, and by age 17, about 8 percent of boys and 23 percent of girls have experienced migraine, the MRF reports. Martin and a team of researchers were part of a longitudinal study looking at 761 adolescent girls from sites in Cincinnati, New York and the San Francisco Bay area. The girls ranged in age from 8 to 20 and study took place over a 10-year period beginning in 2004. Girls enrolled in the study at age 8-10 were examined during study visit every six to 12 months. Researchers determined when they showed initial signs of thelarche (breast development), pubarche (pubic hair growth) and menarche (start of menstrual periods). Girls answered a headache questionnaire to find out if they suffered from migraine headache, no migraine or probable migraine—the latter is defined as meeting all the diagnostic criteria for migraine except one. The average age at which they completed the survey was 16. Of those surveyed, 85 girls (11 percent) were diagnosed with migraine headache while 53 (7 percent) had probable migraine and 623 (82 percent) had no migraine, according to Martin, also a UC Health physician specializing in migraine. Researchers found that girls with migraine had an earlier age of thelarche (breast development) and the onset of menarche (menstrual periods) than those with no migraine. On average breast development occurred four months earlier in those with migraine while menstruation started five months earlier. There was no difference in the age of pubarche (pubic hair development) between those with migraine and no migraine. “There was a 25 percent increase in the chance of having migraine for each year earlier that a girl experienced either thelarche or menarche,” says Susan Pinney, PhD, professor in the UC Department of Environmental Health and lead investigator on the study. “This suggests a strong relationship between early puberty and the development of migraine in adolescent girls.” The age of onset of thelarche, pubarche or menarche did not differ between those with probable migraine and no migraine, says Pinney. Previous research suggests that migraine often starts with the onset of menstrual cycles during menarche in adolescent girls. But this study looks at earlier stages of puberty such as thelarche and pubarche, explains Martin. “To suggest the origins of migraine may occur actually before menstrual periods begin is pretty novel,” says Martin. “At each of these stages, different hormones are starting to appear in girls. During pubarche, testosterone and androgens are present, and during thelarche, there is the very first exposure to estrogen. Menarche is when a more mature hormonal pattern emerges. Our study implies that the very first exposure to estrogen could be the starting point for migraine in some adolescent girls. It may be the Big Bang Theory of migraine.” So is there anything that one can do to prevent an early puberty? “Studies suggest that childhood obesity is associated with early puberty,” says Martin, who is also president of the National Headache Foundation. “Keeping your weight down might prevent the early onset of puberty. Future studies will need to be done to determine if strategy will decrease also the likelihood of developing migraine.” Other co-investigators in the study include Frank Biro, MD, UC professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s pediatrician, Jun Ying, PhD, professor in the UC Department of Environmental Health, and Hao Yu, biostatistician, UC Department of Environmental Health. Funding for this research came grant U01ES026119 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and grant 1R03HD094236 of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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