Petra Wilder-Smith receives $973,383 TRDRP award to develop smartphone-based oral scanner pen to detect oral cancer in tobacco users

Dr. Petra Wilder-Smith was awarded a $973,383 Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) grant to expand their existing artificial intelligence-driven oral cancer probe capabilities to benefit individuals who use tobacco.

To date, Dr. Wilder-Smith and her team have focused on differentiating between cancer and pre-cancer from healthy tissues in the mouth.  However, tobacco users have many intra-oral lesions, which confound the probe in its current configuration.

Their aim is to train the artificial intelligence algorithm to differentiate between the more common mouth lesions, especially tobacco-related ones, as well as cancer, precancer and healthy tissue.  The diagnostic algorithm will be accessed through a simple smartphone or tablet-based App, which also can identify and connect with healthcare providers for communication, remote examination and data transfer.

According to Dr. Wilder-Smith, oral cancer risk in tobacco users is substantially higher compared to non-smokers with low-resource and underserved populations having the highest prevalence of oral cancer and loss of life. At-risk populations commonly lack access to screening, surveillance, specialist access and primary health care with follow-up for the early detection and surveillance that could lead to early treatment and better outcomes in patients.

“More than two-thirds of oral cancers are diagnosed late.  If oral cancer is detected early, then the survival rate in patients vastly increases,” said Dr. Wilder-Smith.  “While the proposed project includes a very simple photographic tool, our overall approach is to overcome the lack of access to specialist diagnosis by high-risk populations through empowering readily available healthcare workers to perform effective oral cancer screenings and surveillance.  We anticipate that this project will directly result in better oral cancer outcomes for high risk populations.”