4.7 Million Dollars For People Who Have Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a subtype of head and neck cancer, is any cancerous tissue growth located in the oral cavity. It may arise as a primary lesion originating in any of the oral tissues, by metastasis from a distant site of origin, or by extension from a neighboring anatomic structure, such as the nasal cavity or the Oral cancers may originate in any of the tissues of the mouth, and may be of varied histologic types: teratoma, adenocarcinoma derived from a major or minor salivary gland, lymphoma from tonsillar or other lymphoid tissue, or melanoma from the pigment-producing cells of the oral mucosa.

There are several types of oral cancers, but around 90% are squamous cell carcinomas, originating in the tissues that line the mouth and lips. Oral or mouth cancer most commonly involves the tongue. It may also occur on the floor of the mouth, cheek lining, gingiva (gums), lips, or palate (roof of the mouth). Most oral cancers look very similar under the microscope and are called squamous cell carcinoma. These are malignant and tend to spread rapidly.

Researchers from UBC’s Faculties of Medicine, Science and Dentistry are leading a $4.7 million pan-Canadian clinical trial aimed at improving outcomes for patients undergoing surgery for oral squamous cell cancers.

Funded by the Terry Fox Research Institute, the Canadian Optically Guided Approach for Oral Lesions Surgical Trial, or COOLS Study, involves universities and hospitals in nine Canadian cities. Findings from the study could revolutionize clinical practice here and around the world.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 3,400 Canadians are diagnosed with oral cancer every year. In 2010, the estimated number of deaths due to oral cancer was 1,150. Currently, about 30 per cent of patients who receive oral surgery have their cancer recur. The COOLS Study will investigate the effectiveness of a fluorescence visualization, or “blue light,” to distinguish between healthy tissues from tumours or pre-cancerous cells in the mouth. Under the blue light, normal tissue generates a fluorescence which is absent in tumour or pre-cancerous tissue.

The study’s lead investigators also include Calum Macaulay, a clinical associate professor at the UBC Faculty of Medicine and an associate member in Medical Physics in the UBC Faculty of Science; and Stuart Peacock, an associate professor at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine.

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