Academic Health Center
Stay Connected

Research snapshot: A more precise diagnosis for oral cancer

Identifying whether oral cancer has reached the mandible (jawbone) can create uncertainties early on or with small tumors for patients and health care providers.

“Right now, we identify oral cancer’s invasion into the jaw through clinical examination or CT scans but current technology often falls short, especially with early invasions. The problem is there are often uncertainties in knowing how far the cancer has spread,” said Samir Khariwala, M.D., surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota. “For this reason, planning surgery is difficult and there is risk of taking out too much bone or not enough because we don’t know the degree of invasion ahead of time.”

There is, however, a technique available which will allow you to avoid the uncertainty of surgery, the amount of recovery time and the need for additional reconstructive surgery altogether.

Djaudat Idiyatullin, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology in the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) at the University of Minnesota, in partnership with Khariwala, utilized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) through a technique called Multi-Band SWIFT (MB-SWIFT). This technique finds whether oral cancer has reached the bone by brightening cortical bone instead of current methods, which identify a slight reduction of mineralization as seen in X-ray CT scans.

“The great thing about the MB-SWIFT technique is that it provides sharper images without the fat suppression that can sometimes reduce the signal from bone, leading to a less-complete diagnosis,” said Curtis Corum, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology at CMRR and co-author of the recently published study in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance. “Basically, we’re better able to see what’s going on before a potentially unnecessary biopsy or surgery is performed.”

Corum and his colleagues hope to continue translating this technique for oral cancer diagnosis to make it more widely available to patients and their care providers.

Khariwala and Corum are researchers at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Join The Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *