New way to diagnose head, neck cancer in early stages discovered

In up to 60% of cases, the diagnosis is late because the growth has not been recognised, or has been mistaken as harmless.

It is a very common occurrence for head and neck cancers to be diagnosed late. But because of new research conducted in Germany it is now possible to be able to diagnose the oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs), which are the most common type of head and neck cancers, at an early stage.

The researchers had tested the mechanical properties of OSCC cells, and found them to be ‘softer’ than benign cells. The main authors of the study Josef Kas and Torsten W. Remmerbach said, “Early diagnosis and treatment of OSCCs is essential to enabling recovery. But in up to 60% of cases, the diagnosis is late because the growth has not been recognised, or has been mistaken as harmless.”

The research team checked if the cells’ mechanical properties could be used as a malignancy marker.

Another study had found out that even mild depressive symptoms could lower the survival rates of people diagnosed with cancer. According to the research, patients need to be tested and treated for depressive symptoms when they are being diagnosed.

The reason for this was that the team, comprising Elizabeth Cash of the University of Louisville School of Medicine, wanted to know if because of these depressive symptoms the health outcomes of the patients were being affected. For the study, 134 patients were studied by the researchers who had head and neck cancers, and had said they were going through depressive symptoms.

Remmerbach added, “This new way of drawing distinction between malignant and benign cells could enable an early confirmation of cancer diagnoses, by testing cell samples of suspect oral lesions.”

Co-author Jorg Schnauß said, “What we found also has implications for the way studies in cancer research are carried out. Many studies are performed with cancer cell lines rather than primary cells. When comparing the mechanical properties of both, our results showed that longtime culturing leads to softening of cells.

“This softening in the culturing process could potentially affect the significance of test results. Because of that, we suggest that future research uses primary cells to ensure accuracy.”

The study was published in the journal Convergent Science Physical Oncology.


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