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The 5-year survival rate for advanced head and neck cancers is 50%. There is currently no noninvasive method or effective screening procedure available to diagnose head and neck cancer at the earliest stages when it is still highly curable. This study aims to show how Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy could be used as a sensitive, noninvasive, low cost technique to diagnose head and neck cancer at an earlier stage and, thus, increase the likelihood of survival. Sputum samples were collected from 16 cases with oral or oropharyngeal cancer, 8 cases with laryngeal cancer patients and 15 normal controls. Cell pellets were produced from each of these samples and used to generate FTIR spectra within the 'biochemical fingerprint' wavenumber region of 1800 to 950 cm(-1). Discrimination between cancer and normal sputum was achieved using infrared wavenumbers 1650 cm(-1), 1550 cm(-1), and 1042 cm(-1) determined by robust feature selection. These 3 wavenumbers were used to develop potential models to discriminate both oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancer from normal control. In cancer cases, the absorbance levels for 1550 cm(-1) were increased relative to controls, whereas 1042 cm(-1) absorbance was decreased suggesting changes to protein and glycoprotein structure within sputa cells. This preliminary study shows potential for how FTIR could be developed into a simplistic diagnostic tool that could easily be implemented by a nonspecialist to diagnose and monitor head and neck cancer. The method could especially provide a means for detecting laryngeal cancer hidden from noninvasive observation.

Original publication




Journal article


Transl Res

Publication Date





19 - 26


FTIR, IR, PLS, PLS method, RR, SCC, SD, SlimPLS, UK, United Kingdom, fourier transform infrared, infrared, partial least squares, relative risk, squamous cell carcinoma, standard deviation, Aged, Female, Humans, Laryngeal Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Mouth Neoplasms, Oropharyngeal Neoplasms, Spectroscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared