British researchers have developed a new genetic test that detects pre-cancerous cells in patients with mouth lesions, flagging those at risk of developing oral cancer for earlier treatment that can significantly improve their survival odds.
The test, developed by scientists at Queen Mary, University of London, was found to detect such cells with an accuracy rate upwards of 90 percent, according to a report published online in the International Journal of Cancer.
"A sensitive test capable of quantifying a patient's cancer risk is needed to avoid the adoption of a 'wait-and-see' intervention,” said lead researcher Dr. Muy-Teck Teh. “Detecting cancer early, coupled with appropriate treatment can significantly improve patient outcomes, reduce mortality and alleviate long-term public healthcare costs."SPECIAL: This Small Group of Doctors are Quietly Curing Cancer — Read More.
To gauge the accuracy of the new test — known as the qualified Malignancy Index Diagnostic System (qMIDS) — researchers used it in exams of more than 350 head and neck tissue specimens from 299 patients in the U.K. and Norway. They found it to be 91-94 percent accurate in flagging pre-cancerous lesions.
The qMIDS test measures the levels of 16 genes in patient biopsies. It takes less than three hours to get the results, compared to up to a week for standard biopsy procedures.
"Our preliminary studies have shown promising results indicating that the test can potentially also be used for identifying patients with suspicious skin or vulva lesions, offering the opportunity of earlier and less invasive treatments," said Dr. Catherine Harwood, a consultant dermatologist and a co-author on the study.
Mouth cancer affects more than a half-million people worldwide, with global figures estimated to rise above one million a year by 2030. Most cases are caused by smoking or chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol.
Mouth lesions are common and only five to 30 percent turn into cancers. If detected in the early stages, it can be cured. But until now no test has been able to accurately detect which lesions will become cancerous.SPECIAL: This Small Group of Doctors are Quietly Curing Cancer — Read More.