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Microbial Communities Associated with Primary and Metastatic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma – A High Fusobacterial and Low Streptococcal Signature


Given the potential relationship between head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and microbial dysbiosis, we profiled the microbiome within healthy normal and tumorous (primary and metastatic) human tissues from the oral cavity, larynx-pharynx, and lymph nodes using 16S rRNA sequencing. Alpha and beta diversity analyses revealed that normal tissues had the greatest richness in community diversity, while the metastatic populations were most closely related to one another. Compared to the normal, the microbiota associated with tumors supported altered abundances in the phyla Fusobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and Proteobacteria. Most notably, the relative abundance of Fusobacterium increased whereas Streptococcus decreased in both primary and metastatic samples. Principal coordinate analysis indicated a separation and clustering of samples by tissue status. However, random forest analysis revealed that the microbial profiles alone were a poor predictor for primary and metastatic HNSCC samples. Here, we report that the microbial communities residing in the tumorous tissues are compositionally distinct compared to the normal adjacent tissues. However, likely due to the smaller sample size and sample-to-sample heterogeneity, our prediction models were not able to distinguish by sample types. This work provides a foundation for future studies aimed at understanding the role of the dysbiotic tissue microbiome in HNSCC.

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