Press Releases and News

NYU Oral Cancer Center Investigators Set the Standard for Detection of Malignant and Premalignant Oral Lesions.

August 7, 2013


New publication emphasizes health care providers can save lives with early detection.

NYU Oral Cancer Center investigators, A. Ross Kerr, DDS, MSD and Sonal Shah, DDS, have published, “Standard Examination and Adjunctive Techniques for Detection of Oral Premalignant and Malignant Lesions” in the most recent issue of the Journal of the California Dental Association (May 4, 2013, 4: 329-331). As part of the New York University College of Dentistry, the NYU Oral Cancer Center is at the forefront of prevention and treatment for oral cancers and precancers and strives to provide patients with the latest diagnostic techniques for early detection. 

The American Cancer Society estimates over 40,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and pharyngeal cancer this year. While the progress of five year survival rates has dramatically improved for other cancers, oral and pharyngeal cancer has lagged behind. However, it is important to note that the five year survival rate of oral and pharyngeal cancer is over 80% when caught early and localized to the primary site. Therefore, early detection and diagnosis are crucial.  

Drs. Kerr and Shah emphasize the pivotal role oral health care providers can play in prevention and early detection. Their article provides a detailed description of how to perform an extraoral and oral examination and reviews the use of a number of adjunctive screening and diagnostic techniques. 

The authors critique the use of a variety of methods including tissue autofluorescence, chemiluminescent lighting, vital staining and computer assisted brush cytolological techniques. However, they stress that these adjunctive techniques do not replace the need for a careful visual and tactile examination and emphasize that a tissue biopsy followed by histopathologic evaluation remains the gold standard for a definitive diagnosis. 

While the incidence of Human papillomavirus-related oropharyngeal cancers (tonsillar cancers) is rapidly rising and a test to detect the presence of HPV-16 in saliva is commercially available, Drs. Kerr and Shah warn that the significance of a positive test and how it relates to the risk of developing cancer is unclear. “While scientific discovery leads to a better understanding about the natural history of oral HPV-16 infections and ways to determine which individuals are at the highest risk for developing these cancers, it is important to understand that there are effective vaccines available against the cancer-causing HPV-16 and other non-cancer causing HPV subtypes (i.e., those causing genital warts). We recommend this vaccine to adolescent girls and boys.” 

Oral health is a key component of an individual’s overall well-being and dental health professionals are on the front line. Providers can play a key role in improving oral and pharyngeal cancer outcomes through early detection of cancerous and precancerous changes and by promoting a healthy lifestyle.  

About the NYU Oral Cancer Center--The NYU Oral Cancer Center provides patients with the latest diagnostic techniques for screening, prevention, treatment and therapy and engages in pioneering research that is changing medicine. Press contact: Andrea Flynn,, 212-998-9892. 

About New York University College of Dentistry--New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) is the third oldest and the largest dental school in the US, educating more than 8 percent of all dentists. NYUCD has a significant global reach and provides a level of national and international diversity among its students that is unmatched by any other dental school.

NYU Oral Cancer Center