April 27, 2006

Handheld device helps spot oral cancer

By David Douglas

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The Visually Enhanced Lesion
Scope (dubbed VELscope) -- a handheld device that emits blue
light -- is useful for detecting oral cancer, Canadian
researchers report in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

One of the main problems with oral cancer, lead
investigator Dr. Pierre M. Lane told Reuters Health, "has been
identifying changes in the mouth that require referral to oral
medicine specialists for assessment and treatment."

The VELscope, he added, "was developed to provide a simple,
handheld device for dentists and other health professionals to
help in such decision making, by helping them to identify
cancers and pre-cancers that would otherwise not be detected."

Lane, at the British Columbia Research Center, Vancouver,
and colleagues conducted a pilot study of the VELscope, which
uses blue light to cause fluorescence in oral tissue. Normal
and abnormal tissues show different responses.

The researchers tested the device in 44 patients with a
history of oral cancer or precancerous lesions. The device was
nearly 100 percent accurate in distinguishing these
abnormalities from healthy nearby tissue.

The poor prognosis with oral cancer, concluded Lane, is
"largely due to the late identification of the disease. Early
detection is a key factor in improving the incidence of this
disease and the quality of life for those affected."

The researchers are currently conducting a larger follow-up
study of the device.

SOURCE: Journal of Biomedical Optics, March/April 2006.