Clinical Trial to Improve Early Identification of Mouth and Throat Cancer Kicks Off

April 21, 2017

At least 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancers of the mouth and throat in 2017. But unlike a Pap smear for cervical cancer or colonoscopy for colon cancer, there are no proven means to screen for mouth and throat cancers effectively.

Which is why Joseph Califano, M.D., Professor of Surgery at UCSD, and Elizabeth Franzmann, M.D., of Vigilant Biosciences, are teaming up to develop a rapid, point of care, spit test for oral and throat cancer similar to commercial, at home, pregnancy tests, something that has the potential to identify patients at risk for mouth and throat cancer early on and improve the ability to cure this disease.

“The promise of an easy, low-cost test for head and neck cancer has the potential to benefit millions of people around the world,” says Califano, principal investigator of the 5-year NIH-funded clinical trial.

John Califano ElizabethFranzmann Charles Coffey

Through an academic industry partnership, the Detect 44 Trial will continue the development of a unique, stable, inexpensive, noninvasive, easy to use, oral/oropharyngeal cancer specific, rapid point-of-care (POC) risk assessment test and as a prognostic indicator and indicator of risk of recurrence of mouth and throat cancer.  The trial will enroll 300 mouth and throat cancer patients and control subjects at UCSD, New York University, Johns Hopkins, Greater Baltimore Medical Center, with Dr. Charles Coffey, Assistant Professor of Surgery at UCSD serving as the principal investigator at the San Diego Veterans Administration Hospital. If validated, the test may be used in underserved areas by primary care personnel to identify patients at risk for mouth and throat cancers, as well as to identify patients at risk of recurrence who may benefit from close observation or additional treatment. 

Photos (from left to right): Joseph Califano, M.D., Professor of Surgery at UCSD; Elizabeth Franzmann, M.D., of Vigilant Biosciences; Charles Coffey, Assistant Professor of Surgery at UCSD.