Oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are malignant tumours that frequently invade the mandibular bone and bone invasion is a common clinical problem. Recent studies have revealed that bone resorption by osteoclasts is an important step in the process of bone invasion by oral SCCs. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of bone invasion by oral SCCs remain unclear. Oral SCCs invade the mandibular bone through an erosive, mixed or infiltrative pattern that correlates with clinical behaviours. The expressions of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-11, tumour necrosis factor (TNF) α and parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) were higher in the infiltrative pattern than in the erosive pattern. These cytokines lead to receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) expression or osteoprotegerin (OPG) suppression not only in oral SCC cells but also in cancer stromal cells to induce osteoclastogenesis. Taken together, oral SCCs provide a suitable microenvironment for osteoclastogenesis to regulate the balance of RANKL and OPG. In this review, we introduce recent advances in the knowledge of the cellular and molecular mechanisms, by which oral SCC invades mandibular bone based on the recent findings of our lab and others.
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