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May 6, 2008

Novel Device Shows Great Potential in Detecting Oral Cancer

Topics: Medicine

This may not be new news, but it's important news - especially for those at risk for oral cancer We're posting it now in response to a couple of emails that have come in recently asking about oral squamous cell carcinoma, detection, and treatment.

Researchers supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, report that their initial success using a customized optical device that allows dentists to visualize in a completely new way whether a patient might have a developing oral cancer. The device is called a Visually Enhanced Lesion Scope (VELScope), and it's a simple, hand-held device that emits a cone of blue light into the mouth that excites various molecules within our cells, causing them to absorb the light energy and re-emit it as visible fluorescence. Remove the light, and the fluorescence of the tissue is no longer visible:

velscope-machine.pngBecause changes in the natural fluorescence of healthy tissue generally reflect light-scattering biochemical or structural changes indicative of developing tumor cells, the VELScope allows dentists to shine a light onto a suspicious sore in the mouth, look through an attached eyepiece, and watch directly for changes in color. Normal oral tissue emits a pale green fluorescence, while potentially early tumor, or dysplastic, cells appear dark green to black.

Testing the device in 44 people, the results of which are published online in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, the scientists found they could distinguish correctly in all but one instance between normal and abnormal tissue. Their diagnoses were confirmed to be correct by biopsy and standard pathology.

More ...

Every hour every day one person dies of oral cancer in America. Oral Squamous Cell Carcinomas (OSCC) make up over 90% of all oral cancers, and because of its appearance it has been difficult to differentiate from the other relatively benign lesions of the oral cavity. Early OSCC and potentially malignant lesions can appear as a white patch (leukoplakia, or as a reddened area (erythroplakia), or as a red and white (erythroleukoplakia) mucosal change under standard white light examination. However, these cellular changes are often non-detectable to the human eye (even with magnification eyewear) under standard lighting conditions. Often, when the lesion becomes visible, it has advanced to invasive stages. The high mortality rate is directly related to the lack of early detection of potentially malignant lesions. When diagnosis and treatment are performed at or before a Stage 1 carcinoma level, the survival rate is more than 90%.

Clearly, this device can save lives. It belongs in every dentist office and in every ENT office, as well.

Related: More statistical information on oral cancer here ...

Posted by Richard at May 6, 2008 4:39 PM

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