Symposium #1

Translational Aspect of Tumor Microenvironment in the Head and Neck Cancer


* All of the speakers involved in this seminar have been verified as having no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Tuula Salo, DDS, PhD – “The role of extracellular matrix in analysing oral cancer cells behaviour

Course Description (3 credit hours):

This lecture, “The role of extracellular matrix in analysing oral cancer cells behaviour” will describe the current knowledge related to the role of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules and cells in oral cancer invasion. During last decades, it has become more and more clear that ECM essentially contribute in oral cancer progression.  In vitro cancer research has lacked human tissue models that mimic the natural tumor microenvironment (TME) matrix. 3D invasion and growth of carcinoma cells has been investigated using organotypic models composed of rat tail type I collagen combined with tumor derivatives, such as basement membrane molecules containing matrix, Matrigel®. These classical methods mix matrices from different species and do not accurately mimic the composition of human tumor ECM.

Objectives of course:

  • The aim of this lecture is to describe the benefits of using human benign uterine leiomyoma tissue derived 3D invasion assays for oral cancer in vitro research. These myoma disc and myogel models contain all the essential TME components for in vitro experiments. Myoma assay fit also for co-culture experiments of various TME cells, such as carcinoma associated fibroblasts, macrophages and inflammatory cells. Myogel provides an excellent matrix for monitoring cancer cell migration, invasion and adhesion properties. Additionally, we found myogel superior to 2D plastic and Matrigel in analysing the effects of anticancer drugs. Thus, myoma discs together with myogel offer practical human matrices for translational cancer research purposes.

At the end of this part of the course the participant should:

  • Be aware of the importance of using human tumor derived extracellular matrices to investigate the interaction between human cancer and ECM cells and molecules.
  • Additionally, the participant should recognize the value of applying 3D human tumor derived matrix to measure the preclinical effects of oral cancer drugs.

Dan Lambert, BSc, PhD – Extracellular vesicles in the tumour microenvironment

Course Description:

In recent years, interest in the biology and clinical utility of small membrane-bound vesicles released by cells, collectively termed extracellular vesicles (EVs) has exploded. EVs, encompassing a range of vesicles such as exosomes and microvesicles, carry cargo including RNA, DNA and protein (as well as lipid components) that are able to influence the behavior of surrounding and distant cells. In cancer, EV-mediated interactions have been shown to influence every stage of the development and spread of disease. In this course, I will discuss the current understanding of the influence of EVs on the interactions and phenotype of cells of the tumor microenvironment, with particular emphasis on head and neck cancer, and will highlight controversies in the field. In addition I will highlight the potential of EVs in the clinic in relation to oral and other cancers.

Objectives of course:

  • Gain an understanding of the basic biology of EVs
  • Be aware of controversies in the field, and technical challenges
  • Appreciate the translational potential of this course

At the end of this course the participant:

  • Will have a good understanding of the nature and function of extracellular vesicles, what is known about their roles in the tumor microenvironment, and their potential for translation to the clinic.

Toshinari Mikami, DDS, PhD – “Microenvironment of odontogenic tumor, development and epithelial to mesenchymal transition”

Course Description:

Odontogenic tumors are heterogeneous lesions derived from the epithelial and/or mesenchymal elements of tooth forming apparatus and their remnants. These tumors exhibit various biological behaviors ranging from hamartoma-like lesion to aggressive solid masses characterized by local invasiveness, a high risk of recurrence, and even malignant transformation. Most odontogenic tumors occur in the jaw bone and rarely occur on the periphery. In addition, since the tumor cells migrate out of the bone after marsupialization; the tumor microenvironment differs from case to case. It is known that epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is involved in tumor invasion and metastasis; however, the association between EMT and development of odontogenic tumors remains unclear. As the tooth germ differentiates through the interaction of epithelium and mesenchyme in the early stage, expression profiles of epithelial and mesenchymal markers vary in tumors and the degree of differentiation. In this context, understanding the microenvironment of odontogenic tumor is complicated. The present lecture focuses on how odontogenic tumor cells change their characters in the tumor microenvironment from the EMT perspective.

Objectives of course:

  • To introduce and discuss the microenvironment of the tumor from the EMT perspective.

At the end of this course the participant:

  • It is anticipated that the participants will understand how EMT is associated with tumor growth in the tumor microenvironment of odontogenic tumor.


Gareth Thomas, BDS, MScD, PhD, FDSRCS. FRCPath – “Tumor Microenvironment: Impacts on Molecular Classification, Prognosis and Response to Immunotherapy”

A description of the course:


The lecture will discuss the role of the tumour microenvironment in head and neck cancer; how this impacts on molecular classification, prognosis and response to immunotherapy.  The role of various cell types in regulating the anti-tumour immune response will be discussed, as will recent advances in ‘omic’ technologies which have informed our understanding of molecular phenotypes and cell heterogeneity.  The translational potential of these technologies in identifying predictive biomarkers and developing strategies for drug combinations will be explored.


Objectives of course:


Describe the importance of the tumour microenvironment in head and neck cancer progression, particularly the prognostic and predictive significance of various cell types.


Discuss how advances in sequencing technologies are informing our understanding of the molecular phenotypes of head and neck cancers, and describe advances in this field.


At the end of this course the participant:


Will have an understanding of how the tumour microenvironment influences disease progression and response to therapy, and how treatment strategies are being developed based on a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the anti-tumour immune response.