Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer around the world and the leading form of cancer in the Asian subcontinent. The Integrated Head and Neck Oncology Research Program at MSCTR attempts to address two grand challenges in head and neck oncology;
(a) Can we down-stage oral cancer, (b) Could we reverse treatment resistance in head and neck cancer.
Over two-thirds of the patients with head and neck cancer represents advanced stages III/IV, with an overall survival rate of less than 20%. It has been demonstrated that while the outcome of advanced head and neck cancer in India is about 25% below that of developed nations, the survival outcome of early stage cancer that require single modality treatment is about 80%, which is comparable with that of the developed nations.
The primary focus of our research group is hence to understand oral carcinogenesis and develop affordable strategies for early detection and introduce detours in the carcinogenic process.
About 50% of all head and neck cancers recur after ‘curative intent treatment’. As in majority of solid tumours, once the disease recurs or develops distant metastasis, there are no curative treatment options.
The second focus of our research group is to understand mechanisms of treatment resistance and to develop effective methods for detecting disease relapse and to treat the recurrent and metastatic disease with the ultimate goal of ‘molecular pathway’ based adaptive personalized therapy for patients with head and neck cancer.
In an effort to establish an efficient research program and to enable effective translation of the scientific discoveries for clinical benefit, the research program is integrated with the clinical service of Mazumdar-Shaw Medical Center and has initiated collaborations with national and international institutions that offer complementary expertise.
The program adopts two major approaches to address the clinical challenges:
A systems biology approach: exploring the whole genome, transcriptome, methylome and proteome as well as the status of targeted markers in tissues, and body fluids, such as saliva and blood
A ′cancer stem cell′ perspective: exploring the role of CSCs in the process of tumorigenesis, field cancerization, drug resistance and metastasis
The major ongoing research programs of the group are:
- Smart-phone based outreach program for early detection and screening; Imaging based methods for point of care screening
- Salivary biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of oral cancer
- Integrated ómics approach to predict treatment outcome prediction in laryngo-pharyngeal cancers
- Cancer Stem Cells (CSC) in field cancerization and tumorigenesis of oral cancer
- Role of CSCs in drug resistance with resistant cell lines as a model
- Efficacy of Pathway based targeted therapy in animal models