A team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has found that a hereditary colon cancer syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), is associated with abnormally dense blood vessel growth in the skin lining the mouth.
The finding, reported in the June issue of Familial Cancer, could lead to a quick screening test for FAP, which is normally diagnosed with expensive DNA tests and colonoscopies, and sometimes goes unnoticed until cancer develops.
"This higher blood vessel density in the mouth may reflect an abnormal state of cells lining the digestive tract including the oral cavity that predisposes people to colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps," says Francis M. Giardiello, M.D., Johns G. Rangos Sr. Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins and director of Hopkins' Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Program.
People who have even one copy of the mutant gene that causes FAP develop hundreds of precancerous colorectal polyps, also known as adenomas, in their teens. Most have their colons removed after diagnosis to avoid what would otherwise be a near-100 percent risk of colon cancer by middle age.
In 2003, Italian researchers reported that a similar genetic condition, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), was linked to a greater complexity of blood vessels in the oral mucosa the skin that lines the mouth. Daniel L. Edelstein, a senior research program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says he read the Italian report and brought it to Giardiello's attention.
Edelstein also contacted Jessica C. Ramella-Roman, an expert on bio-optics systems at The Catholic University of America. "She developed a cameralike device that enabled a direct and relatively automated measurement of this vascular density in the lining of the mouth," he says.
Using Ramella-Roman's device and associated image-analysis software, the researchers scanned a two-centimeter-square patch of oral muc
|Contact: Vanessa Wasta|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions