Approximately 8,000 Americans die from some form of oral cancer each year, according to the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. While the 5-year survival rate is roughly 60 percent when diagnosed early, your dentist in Lakewood, CO has no way of forecasting which patients suffer from a more aggressive and fatal form of the disease. Now, a researcher from Columbia is working to develop a prognostic tool to help oral health professionals like your dentist in Lakewood, CO provide patients with more personalized and potentially more effective treatment.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has awarded the researcher – Dr. Angela Yoon – with a 4-year grant to continue her work and support the development of a test that will detect a tumor’s molecular signature. Doctors will then be able to use this information to better predict whether a patient’s cancer is likely to progress more rapidly, prompting the need for more aggressive treatment.
Developing an Effective Test
In an early study, Dr. Yoon successful identified specific molecules that – when combined with risk factors such as alcohol and tobacco use – can increase a patient’s susceptibility to more aggressive forms of cancer.
As part of the current project, Dr. Yoon is trying to find the snippets of microRNA linked with more aggressive forms of oral cancer. This will enable oral health specialists to determine which of their patients have higher levels of the microRNA associated with aggressive forms of cancer.
“We want to identify those at high risk for cancer-specific death from the group of people who are already assigned to stage 1 or 2,” writes Dr. Yoon. “Since 80 percent of oral cancer patients are in early stage at the time of diagnosis, a window of opportunity exists in which accurate prognostication and subsequent decisions for appropriate treatment could dramatically improve 5-year survival for patients.”
Dr. Yoon has already begun to pave the way for the personalized treatment that physicians and patients will require to utilize her new prognostic tool. Dr. Yoon is currently working with oncologists at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons to determine the efficacy of immunomodulatory therapy, which can assist the immune system in identifying and destroying cancer cells. Oncologists prescribe these types of medications prior to surgery to shrink the size of tumor and improve survival rates.
“Once we’ve identified a cancer as high risk, we need to provide treatment that will improve survival,” states Dr. Yoon. “I believe it is the responsibility of clinicians in academia to diligently look for ways to improve patient care.”
Lowering Your Risk
While early detection certainly plays a role in improving cancer survival rates, it’s imperative that patients schedule regular visit with their dentist in Lakewood, CO to receive an oral cancer screening.
When caught early, oral cancer has a higher survival rate than many other forms of the disease. Unfortunately, too many oral cancer patients receive the diagnosis of their disease too late, largely due to a lack of regular dental care.
Even as new advances continue to push doctors towards providing better cancer treatment, early detection continues to remain the key to beating the disease. Protect your oral health and your body by scheduling your next appointment with your dentist in Lakewood, CO today.