Analysis of Saliva Gene Expression during Head and Neck Cancer Radiotherapy: A Pilot Study

Jerome Lacombe, Carla Brooks, Chengcheng Hu, Emmanuel Menashi, Ronald Korn, Farley Yang, Frederic Zenhausern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Saliva, a biological fluid, is a promising candidate for novel approaches to prognosis, clinical diagnosis, monitoring and management of patients with both oral and systemic diseases. However, to date, saliva has not been widely investigated as a biomarker for radiation exposure. Since white blood cells are also present in saliva, it should theoretically be possible to investigate the transcriptional biomarkers of radiation exposure classically studied in whole blood. Therefore, we collected whole blood and saliva samples from eight head and neck cancer patients before the start of radiation treatment, at mid-treatment and after treatment. We then used a panel of five genes: BAX, BBC3, CDKN1A, DDB2 and MDM2, designated for assessing radiation dose in whole blood to evaluate gene expression changes that can occur during radiotherapy. The results revealed that the expression of the five genes did not change in whole blood. However, in saliva, CDKN1A and DDB2 were significantly overexpressed at the end, compared to the start, of radiotherapy, and MDM2 was significantly underexpressed between mid-treatment and at the end of treatment. Interestingly, CDKN1A and DDB2 expressions also showed an increasing monotonic relationship with total radiation dose received during radiotherapy. To our knowledge, these results show for the first time the ability to detect gene expression changes in saliva after head and neck cancer radiotherapy, and pave the way for further promising studies validating saliva as a minimally invasive means of biofluid collection to directly measure radiation dose escalation during treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-81
Number of pages7
JournalRadiation Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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