In 2012, approximately 300,000 patients were diagnosed with oral cancer worldwide. Since most patients with oral cancer are diagnosed at later stages of the disease, their treatment options are restricted to tumor biopsies or fine needle aspirations.
Pain, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing, and swelling are symptoms indicative of oral cancer—or the common cold. To prevent misdiagnosing patients, Nham Tran, PhD, and Samantha Khoury, PhD candidate, developed a blood test for oral cancer detection.
Since no routine screening tests for oral cancer currently exist, the blood test, called miLIFE, could be implemented in the healthcare system since it is painless and easily administered by healthcare providers. Dr. Khoury said that the blood-based diagnostic test looks at microRNA, which are tiny molecules circulating in the blood. MiLIFE detects five specific microRNA levels and compares them to healthy microRNAs.
If the specific microRNAs are overexpressed, then the patient will be placed in a high-risk category for further examination. Benefits of miLIFE, according to Dr. Khoury, are a quick turnaround time of 48 hours and the fact that the diagnostic test does not require a specialist for administration.
General practitioners can check for microRNA biomarkers in the same blood sample for routine checks for vitamin D and cholesterol.
A quick and simple procedure that would allow healthcare providers to screen for early signs of oral cancer at little cost has been developed by UTS researchers.
Currently, there are no routine screening tests for oral cancer. But a simple blood test could change that, helping to stem the rise globally of oral cancers such as cancer of the throat, voice box, mouth and tongue.