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Academic Surgeon-Scientist Research Scholarship (ASSRS) - 2018

Developing new diagnostic and prognostic breath analysis tools for head and neck cancer
Dr. Nuwan Dharmawardana

Project Description

Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC) is the sixth most common form of cancer worldwide, with 644,000 new cases diagnosed each year. In Australia, 1,045
deaths from HNC were reported in 2010, accounting for 2.4 per cent of all cancer deaths.

The signs and symptoms of HNSCC patients vary according to site and stage of the disease, with patients usually presenting with hoarseness, sore throat, non-healing ulcers,
nasal obstruction, or neck lumps. The current method of diagnosing and staging of HNSCC is via clinical examination including flexible nasal endoscopy of the upper aerodigestive tract followed by radiological imaging then panendoscopy and tissue biopsy for histopathology.

Early diagnosis of HNSCC is associated with reduced morbidity and higher five year survival, and cure rates. This highlights the need for rapid, non-invasive tools for the
detection of pre-cancerous or early stage cancer, when cure is more likely as it offers the best opportunity to improve population outcomes and reduce treatment related morbidity.

There is currently no available rapid diagnostic method or tool for identifying patients with HNSCC by primary care providers.

Breath analysis is an exciting new paradigm for the early detection of cancer. Using state of-the-art breath analysis technologies, we have already identified novel breath
compounds in a pilot study that could be used for the early identification of HNSCC. This project will expand on our existing findings, to define the continuum of breath compounds in a longitudinal analysis of patients diagnosed with HNSCC.

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