Researchers from the USA and Taiwan have developed a hand-held biosensor for quick, accurate clinical diagnosis of oral cancer

Oral cancer is the 13th most common type of cancer globally, and oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs) account for more than 90% of oral cancers. An estimated 300,000 new cases and 145,000 deaths worldwide were attributed to oral cancer in 2012.

Since oral cancer occurs in one of the most accessible sites in the body, it can be easily treated if detected promptly. If caught early in the disease state, oral cancers that remain localised and are two centimetres or smaller can be cured and five-year survival rates exceed 90%.

Researchers from the University of Florida and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan have reported a breakthrough hand-held biosensor that enables quick and accurate detection of oral cancer.

Minghan Xian, co-author and a researcher at the University of Florida, said: “Oral squamous cell carcinomas are one of the most common lip and oral cavity cancer types. It requires early detection via various medical technologies to improve the survival rate.

“While most detection techniques for OSCC require histological testing in a lab to confirm the presence of cancer and cancer type, a point-of-care detection technique is preferred for on-site use and a quick result readout.”

See also: Needle-free tool could help eliminate malaria

gold standard

The group’s biosensor consists of a sensor strip, similar to a glucose strip, and a circuit board (a hand-held terminal like a glucometer) for detection.

Xian added: “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 contain 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 analyses this signal and outputs a four-digit number that correlates to its concentration.”

As far as applications, there’s tremendous interest within the sensor and medical communities to develop semiconductor- and electrochemical-based biomarker detection.

The team is now looking forward to demonstrating their integrated solution for cancer and other disease detection via a hand-held point-of-care device with a short detection time and low detection limit. They also hope their work will inspire further research into this topic.

Xian concluded: “The next step in this continuum is to conduct the analysis using in vivo samples of CIP2A – a biomarker of OSCC – in oral cancer and non-oral cancer patients with biopsy as a gold standard.”

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

Image: The group’s circuit board for the biosensor. © Minghan Xian, Jenna L Stephany, Chan-Wen Chiu, Chao-Cing Chiang, Fan Ren, Cheng-Tse Tsai, Siang-Sin Shan, Yu-Te Liao, Josephine F Esquivel-Upshaw, and Stephen J Pearton.