Head and neck cancer (HNC) is the 9th most common tumor worldwide, a third of them arising in the oral cavity. Adequate tumor removal increases survival, lowers local tumor recurrence rates, and reduces the need for burdensome adjuvant therapies (chemotherapy and radiotherapy). In current practice, intraoperative assessment of the tumor-free margin is dependent on visual appearance and palpation of the tumor. We have reported inadequate surgical margins in up to 85% of patients with oral cancer, which is unacceptable. The overarching goal of this proposal is to improve adequate resection of oral cancer.
Successful completion of the project will result in transferrable technology and protocols that can be readily implemented and sustained in the treatment of HNC, including other HNC sites, by improving the surgical success rate from 15% to at least 35%. This will likely result in improved survival and potentially also quality of life in these patients. This study will enable a large variety of subsequent research opportunities aiming at application in other oncological disciplines and (international) clinical centers.