Early diagnosis of head and neck tumors is usually achieved via surgical tissue biopsy. By measuring the specific autofluorescence of endogenous fluorophores with tumor-specific distributions, it might be possible to non-invasively judge tissue dignities (“optical biopsy”).

A total of 22 patients with suspicious lesions of the oral cavity and 7 healthy volunteers were included into the study. Using a mercury vapour lamp as a light source, excitation and detection of endogenous fluorophores (tryptophan, NADH, FAD) was achieved using corresponding filter sets in an automated system. By including simultaneously recorded remission spectra into the analysis, it was possible to calculate “intrinsic” fluorescence spectra. Subsequently, the histopathological results of the lesions were compared to the spectroscopic findings.

In a quantitative analysis, the intrinsic fluorescence spectra from (pre)malignant mucosal lesions regularly differed in fluorescence intensities when compared to healthy tissue. Whereas NADH and FAD yielded tumor specific intensity profiles with statistically significant differences in Student’s t-test (p<0.05), no definite spectral differences were found for tryptophan (p=0.22). The mucosa of the healthy volunteers showed a similar spectral pattern as the non-cancerous control areas in tumor patients.

With regards to the results in this pilot study, MFA might serve as a helpful tool in early diagnosis of malignant lesions of head and neck.

© 2007 SPIE

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