- Molecular Diagnosis of Oral Cancer
Oral and oropharynx cancer is the seventh most common form of cancer worldwide and is projected to increase by over 60% in the next two decades (Mathers and Loncar, 2006). Around half of the patients detected with oral cancer will die within 5 years of initial diagnosis. The high mortality rate can be attributed to technological limitations, which allows detection of oral cancer with confidence only in the advanced stage. A clear understanding of oral cancer-associated risk factors and early detection of oral cancer would be critical in improving survival. Treatment planning, patient stratification, and prognosis for patients with oral cancer are mainly based on tumor, node, and metastasis (TNM) classification (Patel and Shah, 2005), which is not perfect. Two-step carcinogenesis of the oral mucosa is well established, which postulates development of oral cancer from a precursor lesion. However, there is clinical evidence that contradicts the two-step carcinogenesis model for oral cancer (Reibel, 2003). These traditional clinical methods are subjective at the best, and are not sensitive for early detection of oral cancer, and have a very limited scope in predicting the aggressiveness of the tumor and identifying high-risk patients. Early detection of oral cancer by sensitive monitoring of tumor-specific markers should help in disease management and improving survival.