He said patients with suspicious lesions, usually discovered by dentists or oral surgeons, end up getting scalpel or punch biopsies as often as every six months. "People trained in this area don't have any trouble finding lesions," McDevitt said. "The issue is the next step -- taking a chunk of someone's cheek. The heart of this paper is developing a more humane and less painful way to do that diagnosis, and our technique has shown remarkable success in early trials."
The way forward is with nano-bio-chips -- small, semiconductor-based devices that combine the ability to capture, stain and analyze biomarkers for a variety of health woes that also include cardiac disease, HIV and trauma injuries. Researchers hope the eventual deployment of nano-bio-chips will dramatically cut the cost of medical diagnostics and contribute significantly to the task of bringing quality health care to the world.
The new study compared results of traditional diagnostic tests with those obtained with nano-bio-chips on a small sample of 52 participants, all of whom had visible oral lesions, leukoplakia or erythroplakia and had been referred to specialists for surgical biopsies or removal of the lesions. Of those patients, 11 were diagnosed as healthy.
The chips should also be able to see when an abnormality turns precancerous. "You want to catch it early on, as it's transforming from pre-cancer to the earliest stages of cancer, and get it in stage one. Then the five-year survival rate is very high," he said. "Currently, most of the time, it's captured in stage three, when the survivability is very low."
The device is on the verge of entering a more extensive trial that will involve 500 patients in Houston, San Antonio and England. That could lead to an application for FDA approval in two to four years.
Eventually, McDevitt said, dentists may be the first line of defense against oral c
|Contact: David Ruth|