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sector_ico_Health_trans Human Health

Development of a non-invasive, digital PCR-based molecular test for risk of oral cancer progression

  • Project Leaders: Catherine Poh, Charles Haynes
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $304066
  • Program/Competition: Strategic Opportunities Fund
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2015
  • Status: Closed

Oral cancer (OC) is a global health problem with high incidence and high mortality. OC has worldwide impact, accounting for 274,000 new cases and 145,000 deaths each year. The 5 year survival rates range from 30-60% and are among the most deadly of all cancer types. Most troubling, however, is the lack of significant change in prognosis for this cancer over the last 50 years, even in developed countries. In most cases, OC is treated surgically, followed by adjuvant radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments.

When successful, treatment of OC often results in diminished quality of life, impaired function and disfigurement. New strategies for OC control are urgently needed to improve survival and quality of life for this often ignored, yet devastating disease. The key to controlling this disease is to develop strategies targeting more treatable precancerous stages, known as oral premalignant lesions (OPLs).

This project aimed to identify the molecular markers that can predict the progression of OPLs which will supersede clinical and pathological tests. They planned to transform this marker into a clinically acceptable application that is timely and cost efficient. This project could provide a non-invasive indicator for the possibilities of oral cancer which will not only triage patients diagnosed with low-grade lesions into a different follow-up schedule, but also monitor patients with high-grade lesions and oral cancer after their treatment for early identification of recurrence. Ultimately, with early intervention, it is hoped they can reduce the incidence of oral cancer and improve patients’ quality of life. The significance of this project is not only to BC but to Canada and globally.