A dielectrophoretic method of discrimination between normal oral epithelium, and oral and oropharyngeal cancer in a clinical setting

Despite the accessibility of the oral cavity to clinical examination, delays in diagnosis of oral and oropharyngeal carcinoma (OOPC) are observed in a large majority of patients, with negative impact on prognosis. Diagnostic aids might help detection and improve early diagnosis, but there remains little robust evidence supporting the use of any particular diagnostic technology at the moment. The aim of the present feasibility first-in-human study was to evaluate the preliminary diagnostic validity of a novel technology platform based on dielectrophoresis (DEP). DEP does not require labeling with antibodies or stains and it is an ideal tool for rapid analysis of cell properties. Cells from OOPC/dysplasia tissue and healthy oral mucosa were collected from 57 study participants via minimally-invasive brush biopsies and tested with a prototype DEP platform using median membrane midpoint frequency as main analysis parameter. Results indicate that the current DEP platform can discriminate between brush biopsy samples from cancerous and healthy oral tissue with a diagnostic sensitivity of 81.6% and a specificity of 81.0%. The present ex vivo results support the potential application of DEP testing for identification of OOPC. This result indicates that DEP has the potential to be developed into a low-cost, rapid platform as an assistive tool for the early identification of oral cancer in primary care; given the rapid, minimally-invasive and non-expensive nature of the test, dielectric characterization represents a promising platform for cost-effective early cancer detection.