Scientists patent novel technique for diagnosing oral cancer
VIGO, Spain: Malignant tumours of the oral cavity are the sixth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Thus, a fast and accurate diagnosis is key to maximising the probability of successful treatment. Scientists from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Vigo (IBIV) in Spain, have patented a novel, more reliable and less invasive technique for detecting carcinomas in the oral mucosa.
IBIV has developed this new technique in co-operation with the otorhinolaryngology department at the Povisa hospital in Vigo in the context of its Biomedical Capacities Support Programme, BIOCAPS, which is funded by the European Commission. According to the researchers, the technique could possibly be adapted for the diagnosis of other common cancers, such as cervical and skin cancer, in the future.
“The earliest symptom of cancer of the oral cavity is the appearance of whitish or reddish lesions, which do not disappear or which may grow larger with time, on the inner surface of the oropharyngeal cavity,” explained Dr Roberto Valdés from the hospital. These lesions subsequently become painful, either spontaneously or during chewing or swallowing, followed by the onset of oral bleeding.
To date, physicians diagnose a carcinoma of the epithelial mucosal tissue in the oropharynx by observing and biopsying the tissues that exhibit lesions. The accuracy of this invasive technique depends on adequate sampling of the lesion and correct interpretation of the results of the laboratory analysis.
The alternative developed by the BIOCAPS researchers provides important advantages, as it is “a non-invasive technique that allows tissue to be analysed in the patient, without the need for either incisions or tissue removal,” noted Pío González, the co-ordinator of the research project.
Moreover, the technique can be performed using an easy-to-handle portable device; thus, the result can be obtained immediately in the consulting room or operating theatre without the need for laboratory analyses. “This is a non-traumatic test as there is no need to perform biopsies, thus making it possible to perform multiple examinations in suspected patients and reach an early diagnosis of this tumour-type disease,” Valdés noted from a clinical viewpoint.
The new method is expected to reduce the costs and time required for diagnosis substantially. It will also replace the subjective interpretation of results by providing an exact measure of the degree of malignancy of the tissue.
The key to this new technique is the use of an optical technique known as Raman spectroscopy, which involves irradiating the tissue with laser light to provide accurate information regarding the irradiated surface without any harmful effects to it.
“Although it had previously been shown that Raman spectroscopy can differentiate between different functional group characteristics of changes in living tissue, specific studies with this type of cancer had not been conducted,” said Dr Miriam López, a researcher at IBIV. “Malignancy indices such as those developed by us were also unavailable; therefore, this study represents a clear and specific breakthrough in the detection of this disease with high reliability,” she added.
The patent for the technique has been licensed to the company Irida Ibérica, which is currently developing a portable prototype and will fund further research by the IBIV scientists to establish the exact malignancy parameters through in vivo trials. The company expects to have the first prototype available by the end of this year. Once the final malignancy criteria have been incorporated, the technique will be made available to the medical community.
“It will be vital to attend conferences to present this technique and demonstrate to specialists that it is more objective and reliable as it will even allow diagnosis before the tumour becomes visible by identifying cancerous cells before they can be observed visually,” explained Nikos Ekizoglou, head of projects at Irida Ibérica.
To read more about oral cancer, follow this link.