Oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma (OCC) and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPC) are among the most common cancers worldwide and are associated with high mortality and morbidity. The purpose of this study is to identify potential biomarkers to distinguish OCC/OPC from normal controls and to distinguish OCC patients with and without nodal metastasis. We tested saliva samples from 101 OCC, 58 OPC, and 35 normal controls using four analytical platforms (NMR, targeted aqueous by LC-MS/MS, global aqueous and global lipidomics by LC-Q-TOF). Samples from OCC and normal controls were divided into discovery and validation sets. Using linear regression adjusting for age, sex, race and experimental batches, we found the levels of two metabolites (glycine and proline) to be significantly different between OCC and controls (FDR < 0.1 for both discovery and validation sets) but did not find any appreciable differences in metabolite levels between OPC and controls or between OCC with and without nodal metastasis. Four metabolites, including glycine, proline, citrulline, and ornithine were associated with early stage OCC in both discovery and validation sets. Further study is warranted to confirm these results in the development of salivary metabolites as diagnostic markers.
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