Anti-mouth cancer chemo breakthrough

A potential development in mouth cancer treatment is to be welcomed, says the organiser of the annual Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign.

The British Dental Health Foundation has welcomed results of studies at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University*.

Research has suggested an anti-cancer compound could help treat mouth cancer, a disease which kills one person every five hours in the UK.

Studies showed that the compound killed off mouth cancer cells removed from head and neck cancer patients.

The new studies – found when scientists tested a drug for its effects on blood cancer and reported in yesterday’s online edition of the Journal of Pathology – will be hoped to mark a significant breakthrough.

The experimental drug involved new chemotherapy agents known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors – which limit cell growth.

Lead researcher Richard Smith said: ‘This report shows that an HDAC inhibitor is effective on head and neck cancer cell lines, and that is the first step toward use in humans.’

Foundation chief executive Dr Nigel Carter said: ‘Such news, though very early days, is to be welcomed as the low long-term survival rate from mouth cancer makes the disease one of the deadliest.

‘Currently the best chance of beating the cancer comes from early detection, improving survival rates to more than 90%, so it is important to follow the slogan of the Mouth Cancer Action Month campaign: “If in doubt, get checked out.”

‘Though this research could prove important it is vital that dentists and health professionals continue to perform oral screenings and educate on how to look out for signs of oral cancer.  Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle also helps to prevent problems developing.’

Research has recently suggested that the human papillomavirus (HPV). transmitted via oral sex, could soon become most common causes of the disease.

Mouth Cancer Action Month 2009 takes place 1-30 November. For more information, go online at or call the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188.

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