David T.W. Wong is wearing a suit and tie and glasses.

David  T.W.  Wong D.M.D., D.M.SC.

Director of the UCLA Center for Oral/Head & Neck Oncology Research (COOR)
  • (310) 206-3048
(310) 825-7609
73-038 CHS

UCLA School of Dentistry
10833 Le Conte Ave.
Box 951668
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668

  • Endowed Chairs
  • Full-Time Faculty
Academic Sections
  • Biosystems and Function

David T.W. Wong, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., is the Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Chair in Dentistry and a professor in the Section of Biosystems and Function in the Division of Oral and Systemic Health Sciences. He is the director of the UCLA Center for Oral/Head and Neck Oncology Research. An active scientist in oral cancer and saliva diagnostics research. He has authored over 305 peer reviewed scientific publications. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), past member of the ADA Council of Scientific Affairs and the past president of American Association of Dental Research (AADR). Dr. Wong's Lab website (

Representative Publications
  • Shintani S, Ohyama H, Zhang X, McBride J, Matsuo K, Tsuji T, Todd R, Lerman M, Wong DTW. p12DOC-1 is a novel CDK2-associated protein. Mol Cell Biol 2000; 20:6300-6307.
  • Li Y, Elashoff D, Oh M, Sinha U, St John MA, Zhou X, Abemayor E, Wong DT. Serum circulating human mRNA profiling and its utility for oral cancer detection. J Clin Oncol. 2006;24(11):1754-60. PubMed PMID: 16505414.
  • Zhang, L, Farrell, J J, Zhou, H, Elashoff, D, Akin, D, Park, N H, Chia, D, and Wong, D T Salivary Transcriptomic Biomarkers for Detection of Resectable Pancreatic Cancer. Gastroenterology, 2010; 138: 949-957 e947. PMCID: PMC2831159.
  • Lau, C, Kim, Y, Chia, D, Spielmann, N, Eibl, G, Elashoff, D, Wei, F, Lin, Y L, Moro, A, Grogan, T, Chiang, S, Feinstein, E, Schafer, C, Farrell, J, and Wong, D T Role of Pancreatic Cancer-derived Exosomes in Salivary Biomarker Development. J Biol Chem, 2013; 288: 26888-26897. PMCID: 3772238.
  • Kim, Y, Deshpande, A, Dai, Y, Kim, J J, Lindgren, A, Conway, A, Clark, A T, and Wong, D T Cyclin-dependent kinase 2-associating protein 1 commits murine embryonic stem cell differentiation through retinoblastoma protein regulation. J Biol Chem, 2009; 284: 23405-23414. PMCID: PMC2749114
  • Wei F, Lin CC, Joon A, Feng Z, Troche G, Lira ME, Chia D, Mao M, Ho CL, Su WC, Wong DT. Noninvasive Saliva-based EGFR Gene Mutation Detection in Patients with Lung Cancer. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014;190(10):1117-26. PubMed PMID: 25317990.
  • Murillo OD, Thistlethwaite W, Rozowsky J, …Wu C, Wong DTW, Galas DJ, Van Keuren-Jensen K, Patel T, Jones JC, Das S, Cheung KH, Pico AR, Su AI, Raffai RL, Laurent LC, Roth ME, Gerstein MB, Milosavljevic A. exRNA Atlas Analysis Reveals Distinct Extracellular RNA Cargo Types and Their Carriers Present across Human Biofluids. Cell. 2019;177(2):463-77. PubMed PMID: 30951672.
Educational & Professional Background
  • B.Sc., Simon Fraser University, 1979
  • D.M.D., University of British Columbia, 1981
  • D.M.Sc., Harvard University (Molecular Biology),  1985
  • Certificate, Harvard School of Dental Medicine (Oral Pathology), 1985
Research & Interests

My laboratory currently has three research directions in head and neck cancer research: Discoveries, Pathogenesis and a Translational portfolio of oral fluid-based molecular diagnostics.

1. Discoveries:  My laboratory spearheads the use of genome-wide and proteome-wide high-throughput technologies to harness the diagnostic and biological determinants pertaining to the pathogenesis of oral/head and neck cancer. In particular we are focusing on the genomic and proteomic determinants of oral cancer progression. Using a patient-based genome/proteome-wide approach; we are harnessing the genomic and proteomic determinants that distinguish progressing from non-progression oral precancers. For genomic defects, a concurrent approach to identify gene copy number abnormalities (CNA) by cDNA microarray comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) as well as SNP-based loss of heterozygosity (LOH) using the Affymetrix 100K SNP-based Mapping Arrays. For expression analysis, the Affymetrix 133+ 2 and all exon high-density oligonucleotide arrays are used. For proteomic analysis, LC-MS/MS as well as single cell proteomics are creatively being integrated. A key component to a systems approach (Weighted-Gene Co-Expression Network Analysis, WGCNA) is to seek out molecular concordance of detectable molecular defects.

2. pathogenesis:  We subscribe to the belief that a central defect in human cancer lies in the dysregulation of cell cycle control. stablishing a molecular database of cell cycle regulatory genes dysregulated in head and neck cancer and understanding the molecular and biochemical pathways of these genes are areas of prime interest. Using differential expression screening assays we have identified a number of cellular genes that are differentially expressed in squamous cell carcinoma. CDK2-AP1 is a differentially expressed cellular gene that is currently being studied. CDK2-AP1 is a novel gene exhibiting growth suppressor properties. CDK2-AP1 exerts its growth suppressor function by negatively regulating the activities of DNA polymerase-a/primase and cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (CDK2). CDK2-AP1 associates with DNA polymerase-a/primase suppressing DNA replication, affecting predominantly the initiation step. CDK2-AP1 has been found to associates with the monomeric non-phosphorylated form of CDK2, suppressing CDK2-associated kinase activities and cell cycle progression. CDK2-AP1 also targets CDK2 for proteolysis. We are investigating the detailed biochemical and genetic mechanisms of CDK2-AP1 in cell cycle regulation, normal development and carcinogenesis. The most recent excitement of this research includes finding that CDK2-AP1 -nulled mice are embryonically lethal and that CDK2-AP1 is an epigenetic regulator for differentiation competency for mouse embryonic stem cells, placing this gene at a pivotal juncture of stem cell differentiation and development.

3. Molecular Diagnostics:  The early detection of cancer by non-invasive means has been the holy grail for cancer researchers. My research group has been spearheading a series of concerted efforts to spearhead the scientific and translational frontiers of salivary diagnostics. The use of saliva, a non-invasive biofluid, for oral and systemic disease detection, for disease progression, and for therapeutic monitoring are highly desirable goals. We have harnessed and defined five diagnostic alphabets from human saliva: salivary proteome, transcriptome, micro-RNA, metabolome and microbiome. The availability of these diagnostic alphabets greatly enhanced the translational utilities of saliva. In parallel to the biomarker efforts, point-of-care technologies are being developed for clinical applications. The “Oral Fluid NanoSensor Test (OFNASET)” is a prototype nanotechnology-based point-of-care sensor that will have the ability to detect multiplex analytes in saliva for disease detection. Two additional highly impactful outcomes emerged from these initiatives. One is the discovery of salivary extracellular RNA in saliva, including a previously unnoticed landscape of non-coding RNA. This project, funded by the NIH Common Fund on “Extracellular RNA Communication Consortium” opened a new horizon of saliva biology. A second facet of excitement is the finding that saliva is an optimal biofluid for liquid biopsy (saliva liquid biopsy, sLB) for detection of actionable mutations in human cancers. Using an electrochemical technology called electric field-induced release and measurement (EFIRM), circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) was detectable in lung cancer patients with near perfect concordance with tissue-based biopsy genotyping. As liquid biopsy is an intensely researched focus, the development of EFIRM and the utilization of saliva as a non-invasive biofluid is timely and highly impactful.

Professional Memberships
  • 1981 - Member, Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Society
  • 1981 - Member, Canadian Dental Association
  • 1982 - Member and Counsel of Scientific Affairs, American Dental Association
  • 1982 - Member, American Academy of Oral Pathology
  • 1983 - Member and Section N and M members of American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1985 -Board Member and member, American Association for Dental Research
  • 1986 - Member, International Association for Dental Research
  • 1986 - Member, International Assoc. Dental Research/Experimental Pathology Chapter
  • 1986 - Member, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 1986 - Member, American Society for Microbiology
  • 1988-2001 - Member, Boston Cancer Society
  • 1977 - Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry (American Chemical Society)
  • 1979 - Chemistry Book Award (Simon Fraser University)
  • 1980 - Dr. Lorin O. Lind Memorial Scholarship (University of British Columbia)
  • 1981 - Roy Sofield Memorial Prize in Dentistry (University of British Columbia)
  • 1981 - Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Society
  • 1981 - The Henry M. Thorton Fellowship (American Dental Association)
  • 1982-1985 - Medical Research Council of Canada Post-doctoral Research Fellowship
  • 1985 - The James H. Shaw Award (Harvard School of Dental Medicine)
  • 1987-1990 - Cancer Research Scholar Award (American Cancer Society)
  • 1988-1993 - FIRST Award (R29) (National Institutes of Health)
  • 1991-1996 - Research Career Development Award (K04) (National Institute of Dental Research)
  • 1993 - Distinguished Faculty Award (Harvard School of Dental Medicine)
  • 1999 - American Student Dental Association “25 Dental Visionaries”
  • 2001 - Frederick Birnberg Research Award- Columbia University
  • 2002 - Distinguished Scientist Award, IADR Experimental Pathology & Medicine Research Award
  • 2004 - Distinguished Faculty Award, University of California at Los Angeles, School of Dentistry
  • 2006 - AAAS Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2007 - Honorary Membership, American Academy of Oral Medicine
  • 2007 - Saliva Researcher of the Year, International Association of Dental Research
  • 2008 - OCTRI Academy Visiting Professorship, Oregon Health & Science University
  • 2008 - Vice President, American Association for Dental Research
  • 2010 - President, American Association for Dental Research
  • 2010 - Fellow, American College of Dentists
  • 2010 - The Alan J. Davis/SCADA Achievement Award
  • 2010 - George Bugliarello Prize (Best paper in American Scientist “Salivary Diagnostics”, 2008 and 2009)
  • 2011 - Dr. Murray J. Gavel Clinical Research Award, The Forsyth Institute
  • 2011 - ADEA Geis Award
  • 2014 - AADR National Student Research Group (NSRG) Mentor Award
  • 2015 - AACC Outstanding Speaker Award
  • 2017 - Distinguished Visiting Fellow, University of Birmingham, UK
  • 2017 - Associate Member, NCI Early Detection Disease Network (EDRN)
  • 2018-2022 - Chartered Member, Cancer Biomarker Study Section (CBSS), NIH Center of Scientific Review
  • 2019 - AADR Fellow