Precision Optical Guidance for Oral Biopsy Based on Next-Generation Hallmarks of Cancer

Funding Agency:

NIH / National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research


Rebecca Richards-Kortum (Rice), Richard Schwarz (Rice), Ann Gillenwater (UTMDACC), Jennifer Carns (Rice), Michelle Williams (UTMDACC), James Long (UTMDACC), Nadarajah Vigneswaran (UTHSC)


With over 300,000 new cases per year and a mortality rate of approximately 50%, oral cancer is a major global health issue. The stage at diagnosis is the most important predictor of survival, and unfortunately, most patients are diagnosed at a late stage. Oral cancer is preceded by visible mucosal changes which are designated oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD). Invasive biopsy of oral lesions is the gold standard to diagnose oral dysplasia and cancer, and pathologic diagnosis of dysplasia is the best indicator of risk for oral cancer development. Dysplasia often arises in patients with OPMDs; however, most practitioners lack expertise to distinguish OPMDs from benign lesions. It is difficult even for experts to determine which oral lesions are at highest risk to contain dysplasia and should be biopsied.

The goal of this proposal is to develop and validate an Active Biopsy Guidance (ABG) optical imaging system, consisting of an optical mapping scope and a high resolution microscope, to help clinicians determine precisely when and where to biopsy suspicious oral lesions. The ABG system will integrate several optical imaging modalities to non-invasively probe key molecular and morphologic changes associated with the next-generation hallmarks of cancer. The impact of this research will be to provide interactive imaging technology that will enable earlier detection of oral neoplasia and better patient outcomes addressing a long-standing, significant global health challenge.