The color of cancer: Margin guidance for oral cancer resection using elastic scattering spectroscopy

Laryngoscope. 2017 Sep;127 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):S1-S9. doi: 10.1002/lary.26763. Epub 2017 Jul 28.


Objectives/hypothesis: To evaluate the usefulness of elastic scattering spectroscopy (ESS) as a diagnostic adjunct to frozen section analysis in patients with diagnosed squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity.

Study design: Prospective analytic study.

Methods: Subjects for this single institution, institutional review board-approved study were recruited from among patients undergoing surgical resection for squamous cell cancer of the oral cavity. A portable ESS device with a contact fiberoptic probe was used to obtain spectral signals. Four to 10 spectral readings were obtained on each subject from various sites including gross tumor and normal-appearing mucosa in the surgical margin. Each reading was correlated with the histopathologic findings of biopsies taken from the exact location of the spectral readings. A diagnostic algorithm based on multidimensional pattern recognition/machine learning was developed. Sensitivity and specificity, error rate, and area under the curve were used as performance metrics for tests involving classification between disease and nondisease classes.

Results: Thirty-four (34) subjects were enrolled in the study. One hundred seventy-six spectral data point/biopsy specimen pairs were available for analysis. ESS distinguished normal from abnormal tissue, with a sensitivity ranging from 84% to 100% and specificity ranging from 71% to 89%, depending on how the cutoff between normal and abnormal tissue was defined (i.e., mild, moderate, or severe dysplasia). There were statistically significant differences in malignancy scores between histologically normal tissue and invasive cancer and between noninflamed tissue and inflamed tissue.

Conclusions: This is the first study to evaluate the effectiveness of ESS in guiding mucosal resection margins in oral cavity cancer. ESS provides fast, real-time assessment of tissue without the need for pathology expertise. ESS appears to be effective in distinguishing between normal mucosa and invasive cancer and between "normal" tissue (histologically normal and mild dysplasia) and "abnormal" tissue (severe dysplasia and carcinoma in situ) that might require further margin resection. Further studies, however, are needed with a larger sample size to validate these findings and to determine the effectiveness of ESS in distinguishing visibly and histologically normal tissue from visibly normal but histologically abnormal tissue.

Level of evidence: NA Laryngoscope, 127:S1-S9, 2017.

Keywords: Oral cancer; noninvasive diagnosis; optical biopsy; scattering spectroscopy.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Area Under Curve
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Margins of Excision*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mouth Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mouth Neoplasms / surgery
  • Scattering, Radiation
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods*