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Hope for mouth cancer treatment

1st August 2006

Researchers have discovered that mouth cancer can develop in two fundamentally different ways, raising hopes for better diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

A new study by scientists at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow reveals that two parallel forms of pre-cancer in the mouth are possible, known as immortal and mortal tumour cells.

The immortal version is so-called because of its resilience and constantly-dividing nature, a major aspect of aggressive diseases.  In contrast, mortal tumour cells have a limited lifespan and disintegrate once they develop into a tumour, therefore not spreading any further.

Around 1,600 people die each year in the UK from mouth cancer which is thought to be mainly caused by excessive drinking and smoking.  It is hoped that the findings may help to predict which form of cancer a patient is likely to develop at the pre-cancer stage, which will increase the chance of early treatment.

 

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