Every year almost 200 persons are diagnosed with oral cancer in Norway, and the number is increasing. The prognosis is poor with a 5-year survival rate of about 50%. The standard treatment is surgery, often combined with radiotherapy. The treatment often causes permanent side effects such as dry mouth, dental health problems, eating and speech problems, trismus, and dysphagia. The choice of treatment is mainly based on the size of the tumor as well as presence and extent of metastasis according to the TNM classification. However, there are large individual differences in response to treatment. Since the TNM system does not consider the heterogeneity in the biological properties of tumors, treatment choices that are based on the TNM classification cause over-treatment of some patients whereas others will receive less extensive treatment than they could benefit from. Biomarkers that can reflect the biological variations between the tumors have therefore been searched for a long time, but so far there are no such validated biomarkers.


Foto: Jørn Berger-Nyvoll/UiT and Kjersti Sellæg/UiT

The Norwegian Oral Cancer Study (NOROC) is a collaboration between UiT, UNN, UiO, OUS, UiB, HUS and St. Olavs Hospital. The study includes approximately 600 patients with oral cancer, of whom we have detailed clinical information and tumor tissue available for analysis. One of the main goals is to find a panel of biomarkers that can be used as an addition to the TNM system to determine what kind of treatment the individual patient will benefit most from. This may both reduce treatment-related side effects and increase the chance of survival.


Foto: Jørn Berger-Nyvoll/UiT and Ruth Schwienbacher/UiT

In various sub-projects we search for biomarkers by various methods including immunohistochemistry, MiRNA-sequencing, Nanostring technology and proteomics.




Wirsing, A.M., Bjerkli, I.H., Steigen, S.E., Rikardsen, O., Magnussen, S.N., Hegge, B., Seppola, M., Uhlin-Hansen, L & Hadler-Olsen, E. (2021)

Validation of Selected Head and Neck Cancer Prognostic Markers from the Pathology Atlas in an Oral Tongue Cancer Cohort

Cancers 13 (10), 2387.

DOI 10.3390/cancers13102387


Bjerkli, I.H., Jetlund, O., Karevold, G., Karlsdóttir, Á., Jaatun, E., Uhlin-Hansen, L., Rikardsen, O.G., Hadler-Olsen, E. & Steigen, S.E. (2020)

Characteristics and prognosis of primary treatment-naïve oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma in Norway, a descriptive retrospective study

PLoS ONE 15(1): e0227738 

DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0227738


Bjerkli, I.H., Laurvik, H., Nginamau, E.S., Søland, T.M, Costea, D., Hov, H., Uhlin-Hansen, L., Hadler-Olsen, E. Steigen, S.E. (2020)

Tumor budding score predicts lymph node status in oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma and should be included in the pathology report

PLoS ONE 15(9): e0239783 

DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0239783


Bjerkli, I.H., Hadler-Olsen, E., Nginamau, E.S., Laurvik, H., Søland, T.M., Costea, D.E., Uhlin-Hansen, L. & Steigen, S.E. (2020)

A combined histo-score based on tumor differentiation and lymphocytic infiltrate is a robust prognostic marker for mobile tongue cancer

Virhows Archiv 477, 865-872.

DOI 10.1007/s00428-020-02875-9


Completed PhDs

Inger-Heidi Bjerkli


Prognostic indicators of survival for patients with oral cavity squamous cell carcinoma in Norway. Outcomes in a retrospective, multicenter cohort, with special focus on oral tongue squamous cell carcinoma

Link to doctoral thesis:

Foto: Jørn Berger-Nyvoll/UiT

Contact person: Sonja Eriksson Steigen


Synnøve Magnussen
Ibrahim Afolabi Abdulsalam
Anna Maria Wirsing
Elin Synnøve Hadler-Olsen
Sonja Eriksson Steigen
Beate Hegge
Lars Uhlin-Hansen
Kjersti Sellæg
May-Britt Five
Oddveig Gjertrud Rikardsen

Financial/grant information:

UiT The artic university of Norway and Helse Nord