Dr Tami Yap and Professor Michael McCullough, University of Melbourne
New technology offers a way to visually examine the mouth for cancer, without the need for a surgical biopsy.
When Australians notice a new dark spot on their shoulder or changes in an old mole, they generally know to get it checked out. But, would they know if they had cancer in their mouth?
As the population ages, the diagnosis of oral cancer is increasing. Globally, this devastating cancer affects 750,000 people, and it has a five-year mortality rate of approximately 50 per cent if not detected and treated early.
The insidious nature of oral cancer means it is often detected at a later stage; up to half of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer2 already have large tumours, as oral cancer is often painless and unseen.
A further challenge is the limited tools to detect and monitor potential oral cancers and skin l
esions over time. This forces clinicians to remove suspicious lesions by scalpel biopsy and assess pathology.
The Melbourne University Dental School has partnered with Victorian company OptiSc
an Imaging Ltd to improve screening and early diagnosis of oral cancer. A new research project, hich commenced in September, aims to identify individuals who are likely to develop oral cancer, without invasive biopsies.
The project will use Optiscan’s state-of-the-art confocal laser endomicroscope, known as InVivageTM, that enables real-time ‘in vivo’ imaging of human tissue at a cellular level, providing instant, virtual’ biopsies fo
r cancer screening, diagnoses and treatment.
With the tip of a hand-held instrument, tissue can be viewed with 1000-times better resolution than an MRI scan. This allows clinicians and surgeons to diagnose cancerous tissue in real time, reducing or eliminating the need to have one or more biopsies taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
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OptiScan (ASX:OIL) is an Australian listed company and a pioneer in the development and application of endomicroscopic imaging technologies for medical markets. Our multi-patented confocal imaging technology can be used for both cancer screening and tumour margin detection in cancer surgery. Our device enables real-time, in vivo imaging at the cellular level in clinical applications, providing a “digital” biopsy. The benefits of this “digital” biopsy include monitoring of early stage disease, earlier identification of pre-cancer and the potential to reduce the time doctors, patients and operating theatres are required to wait for pathology results, the number of repeat surgeries and actual biopsies required.