Oral cancer is diagnosed in over 300 thousand people, and kills over 100 thousand people, around the world each year. Current treatments rely on radiation and surgery procedures that often decrease the quality of life for oral cancer survivors. There is a clear need to improve treatments for these patients. Over 90% of oral cancers are formed by oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Most OSCC cells express the transmembrane receptor podoplanin (PDPN), which has emerged as a promising target for OSCC treatment. The PDPN receptor promotes tumor cell invasion and metastasis which leads to the vast majority of cancer deaths. Here, we describe efforts to target PDPN intracellularly and extracellularly in order to prevent and treat oral cancer. PDPN contains intracellular serine residues that can be phosphorylated by protein kinases including CDK5 and PKA to decrease cell migration. Additionally, the extracellular portion of PDPN can be targeted with Maackia amurensis seed lectin (MASL) to inhibit tumor cell migration and viability. Previous studies suggest that PDPN induces RhoA GTPase activity to promote cell migration. However, we show here that MASL dynamically binds PDPN to downregulate Cdc42 GTPase activity, but not RhoA or Rac1 GTPase activity. These data suggest that MASL suppresses Cdc42 GTPase activity to disrupt cell polarity and inhibit cell migration. Taken together, these data indicate that PDPN can serve as a functionally relevant target to prevent and combat oral cancer.

Citation Format: Edward P. Retzbach, Harini Krishnan, Jhon A. Ochoa-Alvarez, Yongquan Shen, Evan Nevel, David J. Kephart, Evelyne Kalyoussef, Soly Baredes, Mahnaz Fatahzadeh, Maria I. Rameriz, Kingsley Yin, Mary Ann Young, Lisa Deluca-Rapone, Alan J. Shienbaum, Lasse D. Jensen, Gary S. Goldberg. Utilization of podoplanin as a chemotherapeutic target for oral squamous cell carcinoma. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2016 Apr 16-20; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2016;76(14 Suppl):Abstract nr 1215.