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Oral and Salivary Gland Cancer Biology Program

Contact: Solita Chiayeng Wang, 301-827-4647, 

Through the Oral and Salivary Gland Cancer Biology Program, the NIDCR supports basic and translational research on the molecular mechanisms of oral epithelial cell regulation as they relate to the development and progression of diseases of the oral mucosa, including head and neck cancer. The program also supports and encourages the application of genomic, proteomic, and imaging technologies through research on the early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of head and neck cancers. In addition, the program encourages research that is responsive to the NIH Common Fund Initiatives.

Cell Cycle Regulation

NIDCR supports and encourages research that provides insights into the control of cell cycle regulatory pathways involved in normal oral epithelial development and the development of primary and second primary, recurring and metastatic head and neck tumors. Studies in these areas encompass research of abnormal signaling pathways, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, growth factors and their receptors, and apoptosis.  Other areas of interest include, but are not limited to: 

  • Maintenance of oral epithelial cell homeostasis
  • Mechanisms of adult oral epithelial stem cell renewal during tissue repair
  • Mechanisms by which chemo- and/or radio-therapeutic agents affect the integrity of the oral epithelial lining (e.g. oral mucositis)

Initiation of Dysregulation

NIDCR supports studies on the molecular events involved in the viral or xenobiotic agent-induced initiation of oral epithelial cell dysregulation that result in head and neck and salivary gland cancers.

Cell-Cell and Cell-Extracellular Matrix Interactions

NIDCR encourages basic and translational studies that use integrative genomic/proteomic, bio-imaging, and computational approaches to study cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions and how this interaction leads to head and neck cancer initiation and progression.  NIDCR also supports exploration of the molecular mechanisms by which head and neck cancer cells acquire motility and invade the surrounding tissues.  Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Studies that characterize molecular changes in the stroma during head and neck cancer initiation and progression 
  • Studies that explore the molecular interplay between squamous epithelial cells and the cellular components of hte stroma as well as stromal-derived factors
  • Characterization of how interactions of epithelial cells with localized cues can regulate epithelial cell survival, migration, and proliferation
  • Studies that examine the specific interactions between epithelial cells and the surrounding stroma and stromal elements that promote the development of an effective tumor vasculature and tumor invasiveness
  • Studies that utilize state-of-the art approaches to targeting important cell-cell and/or cell-matrix components' interactions 
  • The identification and characterization of ligands and receptors that mediate attachment of tumor cells to other tumor cells and to basement membranes
  • The identification of alterations in any of these processes or components that are associated with head and neck cancers

Development of Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarkers

This program supports and encourages studies using multidisciplinary genomic and proteomic approaches to the diagnosis and prognosis of head and neck cancers. These can include studies dealing with alterations of:

  • Genes and proteins involved in cell cycle regulation, including oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes
  • Cell-cell/cell-extracellular matrix interactions
  • Signaling by growth factors and their receptors
  • Genes involved in apoptosis
  • Genes involved in angiogenesis


The Institute supports and encourages research on novel therapeutic approaches to diseases of the oral mucosa. Specific emphasis is placed on designing effective therapies for pre-cancerous and cancerous oral lesions of epithelial origin.  Areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • The study of molecular mechanisms of angiogenesis in inhibiting head and neck cancer
  • The study of cell proliferation or invasion in head and neck cancer
  • The development of gene- and stem-cell based therapies for the treatment of head and neck cancer
  • The development of treatments for oral complications of cancer therapies such as oral mucositis that are associated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy

Head and Neck Cancer Immunology

Research in this area includes:

  • The role of antibody- and cell-mediated immune responses
  • Mechanisms of immune evasion
  • Activation of cytotoxic effectors in the development and control of head and neck malignancies

Additional Information

For further information about the NIDCR Oral and Salivary Gland Cancer Biology Program please contact:

Solita Chiayeng Wang, Ph.D.
Director, Oral and Salivary Cancer Biology Program
Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch
Division of Extramural Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
6701 Democracy Blvd., Room 614, MSC 4847 
Bethesda, MD 20892-4878
Phone: 301-827-4647  Fax: 301-480-8319 

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This page last updated: October 04, 2017