Government grant to support Melbourne Dental School Oral Cancer Trial

OptiScan has been awarded a grant of almost $1 million by the Australian Government, which will help fund a trial to improve screening, diagnosis, and treatment of oral cancer.

The BioMedTech Horizons Program is an initiative of the Medical Research Future Fund, operated by MTPConnect. It is designed to foster innovative collaborative health technology development, and stimulate collaboration across disciplines and between the research, industry, and technology sectors to maximise entrepreneurship and idea potential.

The Program’s latest round of funding was open to medical device projects targeting innovative solutions to address unmet clinical needs in three key focus areas, including general medical devices in oncology.

“Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers globally, with a 5-year mortality rate of approximately 50 per cent – particularly if not detected and treated early. Despite this, there are currently limited tools to identify individuals who are likely to develop oral cancer, and patients are subjected to invasive biopsies,” Executive Chairman and CEO of OptiScan, Darren Lurie, said.

“Our technology is making cancer screening less invasive and more efficient, enabling early diagnosis and surgical treatment.”

OptiScan has developed endomicroscopic technology that enables real-time, 3D, ‘in vivo’ imaging of human tissue at a cellular level, providing instant, ‘virtual’ biopsies for cancer screening, diagnoses, and treatment.

With the tip of a hand-held instrument, tissue can be viewed with 1,000-times better resolution than an MRI scan. This allows clinicians and surgeons to diagnose cancerous tissue in real time, reducing or eliminating the need to have one or more biopsies taken and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

“We’re delighted to receive this grant, and excited to collaborate with the Melbourne Dental School to demonstrate how our technology can help save and improve lives,” Mr Lurie said.

The $971,000 BioMedTech Horizons Program grant to OptiScan will enable the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Dental School to undertake a trial with approximately 150 patients over a 12-month period.

“Oral cancer can have a devastating impact on a person’s life – removing a cancer from the mouth and tongue can impact a person’s speech, their ability to swallow and eat, and ultimately their self-esteem,” Professor Michael McCullough, Professor of Oral Medicine at the Melbourne Dental School, said.

“What we want to ascertain through our trial is how we can use OptiScan’s technology to microscopically see tumour cells in our clinic, helping us to assess the tissue, and to determine if a biopsy or surgery is required there and then.”

“95 per cent of the lesions we see are not cancerous, but, without a biopsy, it is very difficult to determine which lesions are cancerous or not – and, these biopsies can be painful and invasive. The earlier the diagnosis can be made, and the least tissue we can remove, the better for the patient.”

“We want to reduce the need for physical biopsies, while ensuring that cancerous tissue is detected as early as possible,” Professor McCullough said.

The Melbourne Dental School trial is due to commence in September this year.