the body of knowledge to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of these cancers. The main research areas focus on:
) Improving the classification and grading systems of oral potentially malignant disorders.
ii) Understanding the immune response in head and neck cancer with the aim of enhancing anti-tumour immune responses.
iii) Identifying biomarkers for early disease detection at the clinical and microscopic levels.
The methodologies used, extend to the study of other types of cancers in addition to different pathological and physiological processes.
The incidence of head and neck cancer has increased in the UK with the highest rates reported in Scotland. This is attributed to changes in alcohol and tobacco consumption and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. The latter is particularly important among younger patients. There are multiple aspects of head and neck cancer that require in depth study to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer research at the Institute of Dentistry includes the following specific areas:
- Head and neck cancer immunology
Cancer immunotherapy is among the most important developments in cancer treatment over the last two decades. In collaboration with multiple research groups, this research area aims at identifying different modulators of the tumour microenvironment that enhance the anti-tumour immune response in various tumour types.
- Digital pathology for the classification and grading of oral lesions
Despite the great advances in understanding the pathology of different diseases, many pathological classification systems are highly subjective and suffer from inter- and intra-operator variability. Grading of oral epithelial dysplasia is one of the key factors for prognosis and treatment planning of oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMDs). The aim of this research area is to develop reproducible and objective descriptors of different morphological and immunological features of oral lesions both at the tissue and cellular levels. International collaborations have been established to quantify the histopathological features of the aging oral mucosa, OPMD and oral cancer. The mathematical and digital imaging techniques used have extended to include other types of cancers and various pathological and physiological processes.
- Early detection of oral cancer
This research area aims to identify early diagnostic markers for patients at high risk of developing oral cancer. This includes research into the potential use of salivary microvesicles to identify premalignant and malignant changes, in addition to salivary biomarkers at the protein and gene levels. The potential applications of Raman spectroscopy in early detection of disease progression is also under study in collaboration with the Institute of Medical Sciences and the School of Geosciences.