New biosensor allows you to diagnose and kill oral cancer quickly before it’s too late

Detect and kill oral cancer quickly; otherwise, it'd be too late.
Rupendra Brahambhatt
Oral cancer.
Oral cancer.

Wikimedia Commons 

In January 2022, a report from the American Cancer Society predicted 54,000 new oral cancer cases in the US. The same report also suggested 11,230 deaths due to oral cancer in 2022. Although most people have heard of oral cancer, they are not aware of its symptoms, making it rank among the top 20 most dangerous and widespread cancer types

However, since it originates in the oral cavity - a highly accessible body part. If the disease is diagnosed at an early stage, it's also one of the most easy-to-cure cancers. For instance, more than 90 percent of oral cancer patients with tumor sizes of up to two cm manage to survive after oral cancer treatment. 

This is why early diagnosis is critical for patients suffering from oral cancer. A team of researchers realized this and developed a point-of-care bio-sensor that could allow easy, quick, and accurate detection of oral cancer in humans.

How does the biosensor work?

About 30 percent of all cancer cases reported in the US are of oral cancer. A person suffering from this disease has swollen gums. Lumps, reddish patches, and sores are formed inside his mouth and on his lips. He or she may also experience pain in the mouth, ears, and in the back side of the throat.

The sores, lumps, and patches formed due to oral cancer keep coming back even after regular treatment. In most cases, mouth cancer starts by affecting squamous cells. The lining that forms the mouth and throat cavity is actually made up of squamous cells. Currently, oral cancer is diagnosed by conducting a histological test that involves testing tissue samples of a patient's mouth lining in a laboratory. 

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Interestingly, the new oral cancer diagnosis approach suggested by the researchers won't require you to go to a lab. You'd be able to test yourself for oral cancer, just like how people test their blood sugar levels using market-available glucose strips and glucometers. All you will need is a biosensor comprising a sensor strip and a circuit board.

New biosensor allows you to diagnose and kill oral cancer quickly before it’s too late
Photo of the group's circuit board for the biosensor.

The sensor strip would function in a  way similar to that of a glucose strip, and the circuit board would instantly give out test scores as the glucometer does. While explaining the oral cancer detection process in detail, one of the study authors and a researcher at the University of Florida, Minghan Xian, said,

"Typically, test fluid is introduced into a small liquid channel on the tip of the sensor strips. A few electrodes sit within the liquid channel, and the surface of these electrodes contains antibodies to specific proteins present within human oral cancer lesions. Short electrode pulses get sent through these electrodes during detection, and then the circuit board module analyzes this signal and outputs a four-digit number that correlates to its concentration."

By studying the numbers on the circuit board, one can deduce the concentration of oral cancer protein in a patient's mouth cavity. Any patient can instantly check his or her oral cancer protein score using this device without visiting or sending his tissue samples to a lab. Thus, the biosensor represents a novel point-of-care and handheld oral cancer diagnosis approach.

The author will now work on further improving their biosensor's performance. They will also conduct more tests to see if the device could detect various other oral cancer-related biomarkers. 

The study is published in the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B.