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Conversation with a Hindawi Editor: Dr Wei Han

Lead guest editor Q&A - BioMed Research International

Professor Wei Han discusses the importance of, and developments in, the ‘Pathogenesis and Clinical Treatment Strategies of Oral Cancer’. Submit your research on this topic to our upcoming BioMed Research International special issue below.

Professor Wei Han’s main research focus is on the mechanism of how oral squamous cell carcinoma microenvironment promotes cancer progression, and how to realise multimodal diagnosis and treatment of oral cancers by using photosensitizers. Recently, Prof Han’s team reports the use of metabonomics to analyse lipid metabolism in oral cancer tissues, and revealed the potential to utilise these lipid metabolism differences between tumor and non-tumor tissues in combination with artificial intelligence for quick diagnosis. Relevant papers have been published in journals including PNAS and EBioMedicine. In addition, the research team also focus on the preparation of various second near-infrared fluorescent photosensitizer and the tumor microenvironment targeted therapy for oral cancers with nano photosensitizer.

What is the importance of your chosen Special Issue topic, ‘Pathogenesis and Clinical Treatment Strategies of Oral Cancer’?

Oral cancer is the most common malignant tumor in head and neck and is characterized by high malignancy, invasive growth, and early lymph node metastasis.

It’s an indisputable fact that poor oral hygiene habits, such as heavy smoking, alcoholism, betel-nut chewing, can induce cell oncogenic transformation. So, advocacy and awareness of cancer prevention by distinguishing the characteristics of precancerous lesions and early symptoms is essential for enhancing prevention strategies. Furthermore, routine diagnostic techniques, including imaging examination, tissue biopsy and radionuclide examination, often fail to achieve early diagnosis of tumors. These defects push the development of a series of emerging technologies. VELscope, a tumor screening method based on differences of autofluorescence in normal and carcinomatous tissues, can differentiate cancer tissues from normal tissues with appreciable sensitivity and specificity. Tumor marker detection and metabolomic profile analysis are also promising methods for screening oral cancer at an early stage. However, the clinical effect of the above-mentioned techniques is heavily dependent on advances in cancer pathophysiology and molecular biology. Thus, to conduct research on influence of poor hygiene habits on the occurrence and development of oral cancer and molecular biological mechanism of early diagnosis techniques admit no delay.

In addition, due to the anatomical location, postoperative oral structure, function and anesthetic recovery of oral cancer, current clinical treatment methods including surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, may lead to disfiguration, dysfunction, and psychosocial distress. With the progress in clinical strategic management, multi-disciplinary therapy or combined and sequential therapy integrate respective advantages and complement one another to improve the final clinical outcome. Meanwhile, advances in nanotechnology offer a favorable condition for experimental and clinical study.

Considering the above, our special issue aims to delve deep into the synthesis of pathogenesis and diagnostic aspects, progress in clinical strategic management, and applications of cutting-edge therapeutic techniques to contribute to the development of oral oncology.

What is your background in this area of research?

As a Ph.D of stomatology, professor and doctoral supervisor of Medical School of Nanjing University, and Department Director of 4th Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Nanjing Stomatological Hospital, I constantly commit to frontier basic and clinical study of oral cancer. I specialise in the clinical prevention of oral precancerous lesions and oral cancer in on-line and off-line ways. Further, our team has successfully treated a number of oral cancer cases through multi-disciplinary therapy or combined and sequential therapy and accumulated rich clinical experience. At the same time, our team played a key part in the establishment of the Nanjing Oral Cancer Biobank which provides valuable resources for the clinical and basic research of oral cancer.

In the field of fundamental research, our team have a long career in study of intricate “cross-talk” between massive components, metabolic abnormality and double-edge-sword immunity mechanism in tumor microenvironment of oral cancer. We also carry out experimental research concerning diagnosis and treatment of oral precancerous lesions and oral cancer.

What are some of the key developments in this area that you’ve observed in the past few years?

The number of oral cancer diagnoses are slowly declining globally, but cases of HPV-associated oral cancer, especially oropharyngeal cancer predominantly among younger people are increasing, in part because of shifting in living habits.

For diagnosis and therapy, minimally invasive, precisely targeted and multi-disciplinary strategies lead the clinical and research direction. With the continuous improvement of Raman spectroscopy technology and the innovation of scientific researchers, it has been possible to distinguish tumors from normal tissues at the molecular level by detecting those with different degrees of lesions. Also, it is expected to become a new method for early diagnosis and intraoperative real-time detection of clinical cancer through tumor marker detection. Electrospray ionization mass spectrometry preliminarily reveals the changes of metabolic molecules in the key process of tumor progression, which lays the foundation of accurate research on the oncogenesis of oral cancer.

Minimally invasive transoral surgical techniques provide an alternative treatment option. More-precisely targeted radiotherapy (with incorporation of intensity- modulated radiation therapy, molecular imaging- guided therapy, adaptive therapy and proton beam therapy) has the potential to decrease the long-term toxicity of radiotherapy. Anti-programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) therapies, currently approved for platinum refractory recurrent and/or metastatic oral cancer, offer the prospect of long- term remissions with fewer toxicities than traditional cytotoxic chemotherapy for a minority of patients, and are expected to advance to earlier lines of therapy. Combined and sequential therapies integrate respective advantages and complement one another to improve the final clinical outcome, which significantly elevates the 5-year survival rate of early-stage patients to 85.4%. Nanotechnology, with incomparable characteristics in drug delivery, noninvasive, fluorescence imaging, immunostimulation and photodynamic/thermal effects, can be further applied for imaging guided surgical removal, real-time monitoring of drug delivery, labeling lymphatic metastasis, biosensing, and imaging guided phototherapy. Unprecedented research about nano-agents design, multimodal manufacture, and synergistic effect blowout.

What do you encourage authors to think about when preparing their manuscripts for your Special Issue?

In general, topics engaging the advances in pathogenesis and diagnostic aspects, advances in clinical strategic management, applications of cutting-edge therapeutic techniques such as artificial intelligence and computer technology in the field of oral cancer. We especially welcome researchers who present work of their innovative ideas regarding oral cancer.

In detail, the theme of either original research and review articles in coordination with the following topics are welcomed.

  • Advances in conventional therapy strategies (including but not limited to surgical management, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, comprehensive and sequential therapy) for oral precancerous lesions and oral cancer.
  • New therapeutic techniques (including but not limited to immunotherapy, tumor vaccine, photodynamic therapy, photothermal therapy, sonodynamic therapy, photoimmunotherapy) for oral precancerous lesions and oral cancer.
  • Immunology and pathophysiology changes from normal tissue to oral cancer.
  • The new trend of clinical strategic management for oral cancer patients at various phases
  • The role of computer technology in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer patients.
  • Pathogenesis, therapeutic schedule and prognosis of patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)–associated oral precancerous lesions and oral cancer.

What do you consider the key benefits of being part of the Guest Editorial Team for this Special Issue?

Aside from the benefits mentioned above, this is an opportunity for us to keep up with the latest developments in the frontier of our disciplines and closely follow the progress of our colleagues around the world. By systematically and comprehensively collecting and summarising new knowledge about prevention, etiology, diagnosis, treatment, mechanism of oncogenesis and tumor progression and clinical strategic management, we optimize and improve clinical treatment strategies and clinical and basic research directions. And equally important, we work and cooperate with experienced scientists of various related fields, put our academic viewpoint at the forefront of scientific communication, propose interesting and valuable topics for wide discussion. Last but not least, we have the opportunity to handle manuscripts close to our professional interests and gain a better understanding of the editorial process.

Pathogenesis and Clinical Treatment Strategies of Oral Cancer is a Special Issue published by BioMed Research International and is open for submissions until Friday, 24th June. 

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This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). Illustration adapted from Adobe Stock by David Jury.

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