Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Novel device shows potential in better detecting oral cancer


Researchers supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, report today 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.

Called a Visually Enhanced Lesion Scope (VELScope), this simple, hand-held device 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.

Because 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.

"The natural fluorescence of the mouth is invisible to the naked eye," said Dr. Miriam Rosin, a senior author on the paper and a cancer biologist at the British Columbia Cancer Research Center in Vancouver, Canada. "The VELScope literally brings this natural fluorescence to light, helping dentists to answer in a more informed way a common question in daily practices: To biopsy or not to biopsy."

Because developing tumors in the mouth are often easily visible, public health officials have long advocated early detection of oral cancer. But determining whether a suspicious sore is benign or potentially cancerous has remained scientifically problematic. "A major reason is looks alone can be deceiving," said Rosin, referring to the common practice of diagnosing cancer based on the general appearance and staining patterns of tissue biopsy. "What’s been badly needed in screening for oral cancer is a way to visualize the biological information within and let it tell you whether or not a lesion is likely to become cancerous."

Rosin said the VELScope goes a long way toward answering this unmet need. "Historically, the problem in developing a fluorescence-reading instrument has been largely organizational," said Rosin, a leader of the British Columbia Oral Cancer Prevention Program. "No one scientific discipline possesses sufficient expertise to build such a sophisticated imaging device, and the needed interdisciplinary groups weren’t forming to tackle the problem."

This lack of communication changed a few years ago when Rosin broached the subject to Dr. Calum MacAulay, the head of the British Columbia Cancer Research Center’s cancer imaging program and who has extensive training in physics, pathology, and engineering imaging devices. Based on these discussions, MacAulay and post-doctoral fellow Pierre Lane agreed to begin the technologically challenging process of designing a hand-held device that also would be user friendly in the dentist’s office.

Starting with a crude, light-emitting box and a pair of goggles that their group had previously cobbled together to visualize skin cancer, Lane and MacAulay gradually progressed to the one-step device reported today. "We essentially refined and integrated the box-and-goggles concept into one device," said MacAulay, who also works closely with a corporate partner that would like to commercialize the VELScope. "The box was molded into the lightweight, hand-held structure, a flexible cord attaches the examination light, and the goggles became the view finder that allows dentists to directly evaluate lesions in real time."

In their study, the scientists evaluated 50 tissue sites from 44 people. All sites were biopsied, and pathologists classified seven as normal, 11 had severe dysplasia, and 33 biopsies were oral squamous cell carcinoma. Reading the fluorescence patterns of the 50 sites, the group correctly identified all of the normal biopsies, 10 of the severe dysplasias, and all of the cancers. These numbers translated to 100 percent specificity and 98 percent sensitivity. Specificity refers to how well a test correctly identifies people who have a disease, while sensitivity characterizes the ability of a test to correctly identify those who are well.

Rosin said her group is now engaged in a larger follow-up study in Vancouver that will further evaluate the VELScope. "Laboratories are developing similar devices to detect lung and cervical cancer," said Rosin. "That means that the same basic technology is now being used to evaluate three tumor sites, and we can begin hopefully to pool our data and fine tune the characteristics and meaning of the changes in fluorescence."

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimated last year that about 20,000 Americans were diagnosed with various oral cancers. The ACS also estimated that just over 5,000 Americans died from these cancers in 2005.

Bob Kuska | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

First-time reconstruction of infectious bat influenza viruses

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Novel method to benchmark and improve the performance of protein measumeasurement techniques

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Amazon rain helps make more rain

25.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>