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Metabolomics study of oral cancers

  • Xun Chen
  • Dongsheng YuEmail author
Review Article



Oral cancer is one of the most frequently occurring cancers. Metabolic reprogramming is an important hallmark of cancer. Metabolomics characterizes all the small molecules in a biological sample, and a complete set of small molecules in such sample is referred as metabolome. Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and mass spectrometry are two widely used techniques in metabolomics studies. Increasing evidence demonstrates that metabolomics techniques can be used to explore the metabolic signatures in oral cancer. Elucidation of metabolic alterations in oral cancer is also important for the understanding of its pathological mechanisms.

Aim of review

In this paper, we summarize the latest progress of metabolomics study in oral cancer and provide the suggestions for the future studies.

Key scientific concepts of review

The metabolomics studies in saliva, serum, and tumor tissues revealed the existence of metabolic signatures in bio-fluids and tissues of oral cancer, and several tumor-specific metabolites identified in individual study could discriminate oral cancer from healthy controls or precancerous lesions, which are potential biomarkers for the screening or early diagnosis of oral cancer. Metabolomics study of oral cancers in the future should aim to establish a routine procedure with high sensitivity, profile intracellular metabolites to find out the metabolic characteristics of tumor cells, and investigate the mechanism behind metabolomic alterations and the metabolic response of cancer cells to chemotherapy.


Oral cancer Oral squamous cell carcinoma Metabolomics Metabolome Metabolites 



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81873711 and No. 31670788) and Open Fund of Guangdong Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Functional Genes (No.2014B030301028 and No.2017B030314021).

Author contributions

DY conceived and designed review. XC and DY wrote, read and approved the manuscript. XC drew figure.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors confirm that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guanghua School of Stomatology, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of StomatologySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Guanghua School of StomatologySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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