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The future of oral cancer management

bio-ross_kerrDr. Ross Kerr, clinical associate professor in the New York University Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology and Medicine Department, talks about advances in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer that could change how the disease is managed in 10 years.


  • Potential advances in biomarker development could make it easier to detect oral cancer at an early stage. Although most oral abnormalities found by dentists are unlikely to be malignant, biomarkers can identify lesions with the genetic mutations that increase the likelihood of transforming into an aggressive cancer.
  • Advances in oral cancer detection will foster a personalized approach to medicine—better predictions of a patient’s risk and susceptibility to certain diseases.
  • The way lab tests are conducted may also change. Although dentists have traditionally relied on histopathology to determine if lesions are malignant, in the future we may be able to do a live biopsy using optical techniques that provide real-time results without cutting into tissue.


  • In terms of treatments, there have been tremendous advances in surgical techniques, particularly reconstruction, and in radiotherapy and chemotherapy. In 10 years, we can potentially offer patients targeted therapies that are directed to particular pathways in cancer development.
  • In the future, treatment for a patient diagnosed with oral cancer will be customized, with treatment regimens based on the particular type genotypes and phenotypes of their cancer

Scope of practice

  • Dentists will need to accept more responsibility for diagnosing oral cancer in their patients, even if it’s a rare event in their patient population. To help dentists maintain their skill set in oral cancer exams and diagnostics, a credentialing process could be established.
  • Involving other health care providers, such as primary care physicians or nurses, in oral cancer screening could would help ensure early detection in patients who don’t go to the dentist—especially those at high-risk for developing oral cancer.

Download the audio file of the full interview (MP3)

Full Interview


What are the ways in which oral cancer management will change over the next 10 years?


Are there important technological developments in managing oral cancer?


Any game changer in the management of oral cancer?


How can different players in the dental field prepare practitioners for the management of oral cancer?


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