Salivary MicroRNAs (miRNAs) Expression and its Implications as Biomarkers in Oral Cancer : Journal of Indian Academy of Oral Medicine and Radiology

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Salivary MicroRNAs (miRNAs) Expression and its Implications as Biomarkers in Oral Cancer

Kumaran, Jimsha V.; Ramesh, Venkatapathy1; Daniel, Jonathan M.

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Journal of Indian Academy of Oral Medicine and Radiology 34(4):p 475-476, Oct–Dec 2022. | DOI: 10.4103/jiaomr.jiaomr_172_22
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MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, evolutionary conserved, typically around 20–22 nucleotides long non-coding RNA, and are abundantly present in all human cells. miRNA dysregulation has an important role in the molecular pathogenesis of cancer in humans. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common type of oral cancer, accounting for most oral malignancies. Dysregulated miRNAs are present in various body fluids like plasma, serum, saliva, or urine and thus help in non-invasive diagnosis and prognosis of cancer.[12]

MicroRNAs present in saliva can be used for mass screening individuals with suspicious premalignant lesions.[3]

They provide molecular support for the individualized treatment of cancer patients. Therefore, finding abnormally expressed salivary miRNAs in OSCC and analyzing their correlation with the prognosis of OSCC contribute to improving the clinical outcomes of the patients.[4]


The biogenesis of miRNA is classified into two pathways [Figure 1].

Figure 1:
Biogenesis of miRNA (Adapted from Dai and Zhou, Bioinformatics 2010 Iss. 29-39)
  1. Canonical
  2. Non-canonical pathway

The canonical pathway is the dominant pathway by which miRNAs are produced. In this pathway, biogenesis occurs in the cytoplasm where pri-miRNA cleaves and produces pre-miRNA with the help of Drosha and DiGeorge Syndrome Critical Region 8 (DGCR8).[5] The non-canonical pathway usually uses combinations of proteins such as Drosha, Dicer, Exportin, and AGO2.


Saliva is a complex biological fluid secreted by salivary glands. It has a lubricating and antibacterial action. Saliva is a potential tool for the surveillance of general health and disease and oral cancer screening.[6]

To get a reproducible and reliable value, the technique must be standardized. The drawback of miR analysis is mainly due to expensive detection and analysis (e.g., RT-qPCR) technologies and the absence of valid endogenous RT-qPCR control. The lack of suitable endogenous control and matched clinical groups are challenges in miRNA research.


miRNAs play an important role in gene regulation, mRNA stability, translation, and transcription. They facilitate tumor progression and pathogenesis. Various cancer-specific miRNA is entrapped in the exosomes. miR-21 is a common microRNA that invariably increases in all cancers. Studies must be conducted in a large population of different ethnic origins to obtain complex miRNA dysregulation.

miRNA-based cancer therapeutics is an upcoming area presenting a promising research arena in the last few years to provide tumor-specific miRNA delivery. For therapeutic purposes, miRNAs are carried by a vehicle mainly with the help of nanoparticles. Further, the use of the different types of nanoparticles is under research, and important concern is to decrease toxicity and cellular accumulation. Various clinical trials related to miRNAs are underway, and there is still a long way to go. One needs to address the side effect and prognosis of the current therapeutic options.


Saliva diagnostics or liquid biopsy is a novel method used in diagnosis and prognosis, which is likely to offer a valid alternative shortly to arrive at clinical decisions and help predict post-treatment outcomes. Understanding the steps, methodologies, reporting, and evaluation protocols will help researchers to reduce bias in biomarker research. The research should focus on distinguishing biomarkers for cancer detection and therapeutics, reducing patient morbidity and mortality.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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2. Aali M, Mesgarzadeh AH, Najjary S. Evaluating the role of microRNA alterations in oral squamous cell carcinoma Gene. 2020;757:144936
3. Benn AM, Thomson WM. Saliva: An overview N Z Dent J. 2014;110:92–6
4. Lousada-Fernandez F, Rapado-Gonzalez O, Lopez-Cedrun JL, Lopez-Lopez R, Muinelo-Romay L, Suarez-Cunqueiro MM. Liquid biopsy in oral cancer Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19:1704
5. Fang C, Li Y. Prospective applications of microRNAs in oral cancer Oncol Lett. 2019;18:3974–84
6. Gomes CC, Gomez RS. MicroRNA and oral cancer: Future perspectives Oral Oncol. 2008;44:910–4

MicroRNA; non-invasive method; potential biomarker for oral cancer; saliva; target gene

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