Researchers are on the brink of developing a novel test for oral cancer where a brush can be used to collect cells from a patient's mouth.
Scientists from the University of Sheffield would develop the new method that could provide an accurate diagnosis in less than 20 minutes for lesions where there is a suspicion of oral cancer.
The new test would involve removing cells with a brush, placing them on a chip, and inserting the chip into the analyzer, leading to a result in 8-10 minutes.
This will have a number of benefits including cutting waiting times and the number of visits, and also cost savings for the NHS.
The team led by Professor Martin Thornhill has begun carrying out clinical trials on patients at Charles Clifford Dental Hospital for two years to perfect the technology and make it as sensitive as possible.
If oral cancer is detected early, the prognosis for patients is excellent, with a five-year survival rate of more than 90 percent.
The nano-bio-chips are disposable and slotted like a credit card into a battery-powered analyzer. A brush-biopsy sample is placed on the card and micro fluidic circuits wash cells from the sample into the reaction chamber.
The cells pass through mini-fluidic channels about the size of small veins and come in contact with "biomarkers" that react only with specific types of diseased cells.
The machine uses two LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, to light up various regions of the cells and cell compartments. Healthy and diseased cells can be distinguished from one another by the way they glow in response to the LEDs.
Thornhill said: "This new affordable technology will significantly increase our ability to detect oral cancer in the future. Diagnosis currently involves removing a small piece of tissue from the mouth and sending it to a pathologist."
"This technology will make it easier for us to screen suspicious lesions in the mouth and separate non-cancerous lesions from those where there is a risk of cancer and those where cancer has already developed," Thornbill added.