According to an announcement from New York University (NYU), the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the NIH, has awarded a 2-year, $245,000 grant to an NYU dental research team with the goal of identifying bacteria in the oral cavity that may be associated with oral cancer.

The principal investigator, Deepak Saxena, MS, PhD (pictured), an assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD), said that the pilot study will compare the bacterial profiles of healthy, premalignant, and malignant oral tissue. Samples will be collected from 35 patients at NYUCD and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Saxena will use genetic sequencing to identify the bacteria present in each sample and to assess which of the bacteria spur an inflammatory process known to be associated with the development of oral cancer.

 “Our ultimate goal is to develop a risk assessment protocol for oral cancer based on the bacterial profile of premalignant lesions and malignant tumors,” Saxena said.

Plans call for a follow-up study involving a larger number of tissue samples.