Novel PCR test expected to improve oral cancer detection and treatment

Seeking to improve oral cancer detection and treatment, researchers from Queen Mary University of London have developed the first polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for oral cancer detection. Besides yielding rapid results, the test, called the quantitative Malignant Index Diagnosis System (qMIDS), is cost-efficient and easy to use and could relieve pressure on healthcare services.

According to the National Health Service, mouth cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world. In the UK, around 8,300 cases of mouth cancer are detected every year. Although seven in ten of these cancer cases start with pre-malignant lesions, only one in ten such lesions will develop into cancer.

Until now, researchers have not been able to find an optimal way to identify the lesions that could become cancerous. One method has been to use a grading system to examine tissue samples under a microscope. However, the malignancy grading system often lacks accuracy and precision.

Senior researcher Dr Iain Hutchison, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Queen Mary, said: “qMIDS will help us identify patients with pre-malignancies that will never transform into cancer, so they can be reassured and discharged from hospital review. Patients with high-risk pre-malignancy can have minor surgery to remove the lesion before it has transformed into cancer, thereby curing the patient and saving them major surgery, which in turn reduces health service costs. It is a powerful tool especially when used in conjunction with conventional histopathology assessment.”