Oral Cancer: Updates from AGD and Around the World

  • by AGD Staff
  • Apr 10, 2023

AGD Foundation Update: Current Milestones and Future Goals

By Mark I. Malterud, DDS, FAGD 

Last year, the AGD Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary as a foundation, a golden milestone on our journey to improve the oral health of the public. Throughout 2022, we continued to advance, support and improve programs and charitable opportunities for our patrons and colleagues. We continued the work of our grants program, which was created in 2012 and has awarded a total of nearly $230,000. Recent grant recipients include: Home Smiles Inc. (Virginia) and Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health in 2022; Florida Dental Association Foundation, West Virginia University Foundation Inc., Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council and Team Maureen in 2021; and Illinois AGD, Washington AGD, New York AGD and Iowa AGD in 2019. A full list of grant recipients can be found at agd.org/foundationgrants

We received nine applications for the 2023 grant year, which are currently under review by the AGD Foundation Grants Committee. Awards will be announced in the spring. It is both exciting and gratifying to see that our efforts to expand early detection of and education about oral and oropharyngeal cancers are making an impact and will hopefully translate to increased oral cancer survival rates. 

The deadline for 2024 grant cycle applications is Nov. 1, 2023. This program is open to individual practices and organizations, including AGD regions and constituencies, with activities that align with the AGD Foundation’s mission. 

We extend our sincere appreciation to our supporters, constituencies, colleagues and friends who have helped the AGD Foundation raise awareness and provide the necessary oral cancer prevention tools. Your ongoing generosity continues to be vital. A special thanks is due to the Foundation’s 2022 corporate sponsors: 3M, Dentist’s Advantage, Ivoclar, Proctor & Gamble, and Henry Schein. 

Despite the work being done and the progress being made, the statistics are challenging: 

  • In 2022, more than 50,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer. 
  • Over 9,750 people died, which is roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. 
  • Of the 54,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in five years (approximately 57%). 
  • Historically, the death rate associated with this cancer is particularly high not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but due to the cancer being routinely discovered late in its development. 

For these — and many other compelling reasons — we are redoubling our efforts in 2023. In addition to our grants program, the AGD Foundation Oral/Oropharyngeal Cancer Toolkit, which was in development in 2022, will be available in the second quarter of 2023 as a one-stop electronic resource for dentists, physicians and patients to educate themselves about oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Our work to educate dentists and the general public about the importance of HPV vaccination will continue to be at the forefront of our efforts. We will also continue our oral cancer screening programs at the AGD scientific session and other venues. A 2023 goal is to include the participation of our regional delegations in an effort to increase the number of providers available to perform screenings and expand the number of patients reached. 

Our educational print materials and public service announcements with compelling testimony from oral cancer survivors will be offered at the scientific session and House of Delegates annual meeting. If you are interested in receiving materials to distribute in your practice, please contact AGDF@adgcommunications.com

Keep an eye out for our new website, which launches this spring and will offer more resources and information and improve our fundraising capabilities. There are many ways you can support our work: 

  • Host an oral cancer screening event at your institution or practice.
  • Donate to the AGD Foundation online by visiting our website. 
  • Make AGD Foundation a beneficiary of your philanthropic legacy giving. 
  • Donate in-kind items to the electronic silent auction held during AGD2023 in Las Vegas. 
  • Get involved! Do you want to be part of the AGD Foundation governing body or volunteer on a committee? Contact us at AGDF@adgcommunications.com.
  • Follow us on social media. We have created pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. 

Help us as we embark upon another 50 years of advocacy, education, awareness, and early prevention and eradication of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. As general dentists, we are on the front lines of this issue, and it is our responsibility to know how to screen and when to refer patients for further diagnosis and treatment. 

Mark I. Malterud, DDS, MAGD, is the president of AGD Foundation. To comment on this article, email impact@agd.org.

The Latest Oral Cancer Research Around the Globe

The battle against oral cancer is a long and gradual one. While major breakthroughs may be years away, scientists around the world are still making progress learning about the disease and the best treatments to recommend. AGD Impact has compiled some of these developments so that general dentists can stay abreast of developments around the globe.

Nano-Curcumin Being Developed to Treat Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is prevalent in India; it accounts for 30% of all cancers in the country. Indian scientists at drug company Oncocur are working on a nano-curcumin supplement called Brecan, a turmeric extract, which they state has the potential to treat oral cancer at its early stages. Results published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology note “a decrease in the size of the lesion, number of lesions, down staging of the disease, and an increase in the serum superoxide dismutase levels.”

Source: “Advanced Nanomedicine to Treat Oral Cancer Developed.” The Indian Express, 14 Jan. 2023, indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/advanced-nanomedicine-oral-cancer-treatment-developed-8380788/. 

Turmeric Mouthwash Reduces Severity of Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer 

Researchers have demonstrated that turmeric mouthwash can reduce the pain of oral mucositis — inflammation of the mouth — in head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy. In the study, only 18% of participants in the turmeric group noted “intolerable mucositis,” as compared to 100% in the control group who used benzydamine mouthwash. “Turmeric mouthwash offers a nontoxic, simple and cost-effective alternative to the traditional management of oral mucositis,” said the researchers. 

Source: Larson, Jennifer. “Turmeric Mouthwash Reduces Severity of Oral Mucositis in Head and Neck Cancer.” Cancer Therapy Advisor, 30 Jan. 2023, cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/cancer-topics/head-and-neck-cancer/head-neck-cancer-turmeric-mouthwash-protocol-severity-mucositis-risk/.

Lymph Node Ratio May Be Predictor of Oropharyngeal Cancer Survival 

South Korean researchers analyzed 90 patients who had HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer and found that lymph node ratio (LNR) — the ratio of metastatic to harvested lymph nodes — was a strong predictor of patient survival and even stronger predictor of recurrence. “Further research and consensus on surgical pathology will be needed to apply the LNR to clinical treatment and pathologic staging,” the researchers stated.

Source: “Lymph Node Ratio Predicts Survival in HPV+ Oropharyngeal Cancer.” MIMS Infectious Diseases, 25 Aug. 2022, specialty.mims.com/topic/lymph-node-ratio-predicts-survival-in-hpv--oropharyngeal-cancer. 

Device Developed that Can Detect Oral Cancer Biomarker

Researchers from the University of Florida have developed a point-of-care device that can detect an oral cancer biomarker. The device uses liquid samples on test strips to find “cell proliferation regulating inhibitor of protein phosphatase 2A (CIP2A), a protein biomarker that can reveal the presence of oral cancer.” The team behind the device envisions it saving lives through early detection of oral cancer in remote or low-resource regions where conventional testing equipment is unavailable.

Source: Hastings, Conn. “Point-of-Care Biosensor to Detect Oral Cancer,” Medgadget, 5 Jan. 2023, medgadget.com/2023/01/point-of-care-biosensor-to-detect-oral-cancer.html. 

‘Druggable Target’ Identified in Oral Cancer Treatment Research 

Researchers at Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine have found that “dialing back — or even genetically deleting — a protein that seems to spur [oral cancer’s] growth might help limit a tumor’s development and spread.” The findings could make the protein, an enzyme called lysine-specific demethylase 1, a potential “druggable target” — where doctors could aim chemo and immuno-oncology therapies. The study was published in February 2022 in Molecular Cancer Research. 

Source: Thurston, Andrew. “Could Blocking or Deleting a Protein Help Prevent Common Oral Cancers?” The Brink, 21 April 2022, bu.edu/articles/2022/could-blocking-or-deleting-a-protein-help-prevent-common-oral-cancers/. 

Researchers Develop More Accurate Biopsy Locator 

A team of researchers has developed “mechanisms to combine multiple imaging modalities to better identify optimal biopsy locations with greater accuracy than currently available techniques.” The platform, called the active biopsy guidance system (ABGS), integrates widefield imaging, microscopic imaging and real-time projection of cancer risk maps to give clinicians as much information as possible when choosing a biopsy location. Oral cancer’s five-year survival rate is less than 50%, mainly due to late detection; the researchers hope ABGS saves lives by facilitating more early detection of oral cancer. 

Source: “Accurate Integrated Imaging and Projection System for Oral Cancer Diagnosis.” EurekAlert!, 19 Jan. 2023, eurekalert.org/news-releases/977123. 

VELscope® Manufacturer Partners with KELLS 

LED Dental, the company that manufactures VELscope®, a device that uses fluorescence to screen for oral cancers, announced that it has partnered with KELLS, an AI-powered company providing accessible oral services for early detection and prevention of disease. The partnership will allow VELscope users access to KELLS’ AI technology to recognize suspicious oral lesions that can be biopsied for oral cancer. 

Source: “LED Dental Announces Partnership w/ KELLS Artificial Intelligence Technology.” Dentistry Today, 30 Jan. 2023, dentistrytoday.com/led-dental-announced-partnership-w-kells-artificial-intelligence-technology/.