Barcode Scanning for Oral Cancers

Oral cancer detected with handheld device

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Oral cancers that can appear anywhere in the mouth are tricky to detect. By the time they are found, these cancers can be advanced and tougher to treat. A new device that uses barcode scanning technology could change this whole dynamic.

University of Texas researchers have developed a hand-held, miniature microscope that doctors and dentists could use to diagnose oral cancer on the spot. 

"Have your dentist look for evidence of oral cancer."

This probe uses a laser to create 3D images. It lights up the tissue sample and looks just below the surface. A series of images can be layered on top of one another to provide a larger viewing of the mouth.

The devices uses so-called micromirrors which are used in barcode scanners and fiber optic switches. The technology allows the laser to scan in an organized, programmed way.  

Lead study author, Dr. John X J Zhang at the University of Texas at Austin, said, "Due to the lack of real-time efficient oral cancer screening tools, it is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States each year on treatment of such cancers." 

The American Cancer society estimates that 40,250 oral cancers will be diagnosed in the United States this year. The disease will overtake nearly 8,000 American this year.

Oral cancers are usually diagnosed with a biopsy, an invasive, painful process that can take several weeks and is expensive.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have a commercial partner, NanoLite Systems. They are planning clinical trials to gain approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

They anticipate the cost of the device will be roughly a quarter of the $300,000 existing diagnostic microscopes cost.

A report demonstrating the use of the device was published April 27, 2012, in IOP Publishing's Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering,

No funding or conflict of interest information was disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 7, 2012
Last Updated:
May 8, 2012