Denise Laronde

New dental prof roots out oral cancer

June 10, 2010

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Ten years ago, Denise Laronde was working as a dental hygienist. This month, she graduates with a PhD in biomedical physiology and kinesiology, and a new job as an assistant professor of dentistry at UBC.

Laronde already had a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, like many dental hygienists, when she returned at age 36 to complete a master’s degree in dental science at UBC.

She became so interested in research that she continued on to PhD studies at SFU. Her doctoral thesis sought to determine the best dental-office screening procedures for oral cancer.

The disease is more common than cervical and ovarian cancer, with a lower five-year survival rate than breast and prostate cancer.

And yet some dental professionals don’t even screen for oral cancer, says Laronde, often due to confusion over who to screen and/or when and where to refer patients.

Laronde examined a variety of screening methods both in clinics for people with high risk factors for cancer and in dental offices.

She found the best method, used in the clinics, was fluorescent visualization, a blue light that not only picked out almost all of the cancers but also pre-cancers associated with genetic markers.

Her thesis also outlined how dentists and hygienists could incorporate fluorescent visualization in their offices.

“As a result,” she says, “the B.C. Oral Cancer Prevention Program, of which I am a member, used this aspect of the thesis to develop guidelines for B.C. clinicians.”
Laronde will continue her research with a new focus on finding ways to offer screening to those who don’t have regular dental care.

“Unfortunately, a large percentage of oral cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, and there’s a real difference in survival depending on when it is diagnosed,” she says.

“We want people to screen and be aware of pre-malignant lesions because we believe most oral cancers have a fairly long pre-malignant stage that is clinically visible."


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Hi, I am currently a undergraduate student at SFU. I am very interested in this research on Oral cancer and I was wondering if there were any opportunities for students like me to get involved with oral cancer research.

I hope to hear from you soon :)

Diane Luckow

You could contact Miriam Rosin in the Cancer Prevention Lab at SFU:

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