Dental Tribune USA

OralCDx test tissues for oral cancer

By Sierra Rendon, DTA
March 04, 2009

Mark Rutenberg wants you to look for this four-letter word: TEST. Rutenberg is the chairman/CEO of OralCDx, a company that provides the BrushTest, which can determine whether a patient has pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. He says his 'test' is different from others on the market because it’s the only minimally invasive diagnostic procedure that actually tests the tissue.

“When people sit in a dental chair, that dental chair is an aid that is cleared by the FDA in filling a cavity, or doing a root canal, but does anyone think that the chair does the root canal? No. It’s just an aid in doing any of those things a dentist might do,” Rutenberg said in an interview with Dental Tribune conducted during the recent Chicago Midwinter Meeting. “If I sell you a flashlight and I tell you, ‘This is an aid in the oral cavity exam,’ that might make sense. If I take a flashlight and color it blue and I tell you, ‘This is an aid in detecting oral cancer,’ you might think that sounds about right.”

“If you want to use a light, fine,” he said. “But know that it’s not a test. There are only two ways to know that the little spots in your patients’ mouth are not cancerous or pre-cancerous: a brush biopsy or a scalpel biopsy. If you have not tested the tissue, you do not know.”

The OralCDx BrushTest orks by painlessly removing and testing 'everyday' tiny oral spots. A small brush is used to quickly collect a specimen for computer-assisted laboratory analysis.

“If you want to use a special light to light up the mouth, go right ahead, but the standard protocol is that you use a white light exam, carefully examine the mouth and especially look for everyday tissue change,” Rutenberg said. “Dentists are used to looking for cancer; they’re not used to looking for everyday tissue changes. If you find everyday tissue changes, you should BrushTest them. If you don’t know what caused it, you brush it.”

“If you only use the light and you look in a patient’s mouth and say, ‘I don’t see any cancer,’ you’re only fooling yourself and your patient,” he said.

If a spot is found by OralCDx to contain unhealthy cells (dysplasia), it typically takes years before those cells can penetrate the basement membrane and cause any harm. With the BrushTest, a dentist can be sure that the spot needs to be removed and oral cancer will never have a chance to develop.

“This is a real test — the brush biopsy is as sensitive as a scalpel biopsy,” he said. “If you’re going to use a ‘test’ that says whether or not your patient has a life-threatening disease, you better know that it works. This is not a cosmetic procedure to create a pretty smile. This is life and death.”

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