Researchers at NYUCD and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center are partnering on a two-year pilot study to identify the causes of ONJ, or osteonecrosis of the jaw, a condition characterized by prolonged exposure of bone in the mandible or maxilla usually in association with the administration of bisphosphonates, a class of medications used by over three million Americans, mainly to treat osteoporosis and bone cancer.
NYUCD has been subcontracted by Sloan-Kettering to assess whether oral bacterial profiles can be used to predict a person’s risk of developing ONJ. The Principal Investigator on the subcontract, Dr. Deepak Saxena, an Assistant Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology, is comparing gene sequences in oral bacterial samples from 30 healthy subjects and from 60 subjects with ONJ -- half of whom take bisphosphonates. Studies have suggested a possible link between bisphosphonate use and ONJ, as well as an increased risk to bisphosphonate patients who have had certain oral surgical procedures, such as tooth extraction.
This research is the first step in determining if genetic profiles of oral bacteria can reliably predict ONJ, Dr. Saxena explained, so that diagnostic tests can be developed to identify those at risk for the condition.