Oral cancer affects approximately 40,000 people in the United States each year. Oral Cancer kills one person every hour, every day totaling about 8,000 deaths per year. Only a little more than half of those 40,000 diagnosed, will be alive in 5 years. This is a number that has stayed steady for quite a number of years. Around the world, the problem is even greater with about 640,000 new cases of oral cancer each year. Historically, the death rate for oral cancer is higher than in cancers such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, testicular cancer, and endocrine system cancers (thyroid).
While not all oral lesions become malignant, the majority are removed surgically. The key is to find lesions as early as possible. One of the more effective ways for early detection is screening with a velscope. The velscope is a quick painless way to find tumors in the mouth that are not yet visible to the eye. As many as 1/3rd of patients with cancerous oral lesions experience a recurrence of their oral cancer. Researchers have been studying this issue for years in attempts to figure out why the oral cancer returns and how to either stop it or slow it down or to avoid surgery altogether.
Oral Cancer Study
After more than 30 years of research, scientists at Ohio State University College of Dentistry, might have found a key to give oral cancer survivors hope for the future. That hope lies in a combination of black raspberries and
fenretinide (a drug that has been used to treat certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, and psoriasis, has been found to also slow the production and accumulation of a toxin that leads to vision loss in Stargardt’s patients).
The study conducted consisted of using a topical gel application containing freeze dried black raspberries directly on precancerous lesions in the mouth. This gel application reduced clinical and microscopic premalignant features (Pharmaceutical Research, April 2010, Vol. 27:4, pp. 628-643). Early results have shown definite efficacy of the freeze dried black raspberry gel while the placebo showed no effect.
How Does It Work to Stop Oral Cancer?
The study believes that the berry compounds work at the cellular level by activating two related pathways in the premalignant cells. These pathways are:
-Apoptosis. A genetically determined process of cell self-destruction that is a normal physiological process. Cells only live and reproduce new cells for a set amount of times until they die. Tumor cells, on the other hand continue to divide and produce without dying off. Normal cells have this ” programmed cell death”, to eliminate DNA-damaged cells, uncontrolled cell growth, and tumor formation.
-Terminal Differentiation. Final stage of cell division, where the cell may stay in this phase and no longer proliferate (grow more cells).
The benefit of all this, is that damaged cells do not continue to divide and multiply and are therefore sloughed away by the body.
The goal of the research is for the raspberry compound (in a gel or mouthwash), to encourage the epithelium to differentiate, creating a barrier to ward off development of oral cancer. The data initially supports that the black raspberry gel is doing just that. It is thought to be re-educating the cells to differentiate away from the cancerous state.
While the black raspberry gel was quite effective in many of the patients involved in the study, not all of them responded equally well to the black raspberry gel treatment. The theory is that is a direct reflection of individual patient differences in metabolism. So, the researchers added the chemotherapy agent fenretinide. The black raspberry gel in combination with fenretinide was more effective, acting as a one-two punch in fighting the oral cancer lesions.
The fenretinide will be delivered as a patch whereas the black raspberry gel can be placed directly on the lesions in the mouth. The theory by the research team is that this will treat both visible lesions and lesions that are yet to develop.
Oral Cancer Conclusion
This could be potentially game changing oral cancer research if the results continue to stay strong throughout the research study. Until the study progresses further, our only hope is to diagnose oral cancer as early as possible. This can be achieved via the use of the Velscope Oral Cancer Screening System. This is a tool that gives the dentist the best chance of diagnosing oral cancer and precancerous tissue as early as possible. Very important to see a dentist using this system and to go for regular dental examinations.