Michael Daldry, a first-year dental student at the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD), will use a £1,000 ($1,249.70) award from the Peninsula Medical Foundation to produce a 3-D model to grow tumor-like cells to better understand squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) with an eye on new treatments and therapies.
SCC is the most common type of oral cancer, accounting for 90% of all cases, according to the university. By mimicking its tumor cell creation, development, and growth, Daldry aims to create a replicable and reliable system to test a number of factors, including the impact of connective tissue on tumor development, how oral cancer moves, and how tumor cells communicate with each other.
Typically, such research would be limited to the number of animal cells that could be acquired and used. However, Daldry’s system allows for almost limitless availability of 3-D cell models. Daldry will use 3-D artificial oral mucosa cells, developed by Vehid Salih, PhD, MSc, and PhD student Sam Gould, as he emulates oral cancer in laboratory conditions.
“Tissue engineering reduces or eliminates the need to use animals in research and provides scientists with more sustainable and flexible cell model platforms with which to work,” said Salih, an associate professor in oral and dental health research. “This particular application in relation to the most common form of oral cancer has important potential.”
The university reports that there were 11,449 new cases of oral cancer in the United Kingdom in 2014, with 2,386 deaths. In the United States, nearly 49,750 adults will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer this year, with 9,750 deaths, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF). Worldwide, the OCF says there are more than 450,000 new cases each year.
“As the concept of evidence-based practice continues to advance, I feel it is important to have fundamental cell biological research knowledge and understanding to provide the best possible care for our patients,” said Daldry. “This is why I am involved with this exciting tissue engineering research, and my thanks go to PUPSMD and the Peninsula Medical Foundation for this opportunity.”
Daldry’s project is part of the INSPIRE initiative, which is led by the Academy of Medical Sciences and funded by the Wellcome Trust. INSPIRE aims to encourage medical and dental undergraduates to pursue scientific research.
“The Foundation is really pleased to be supporting talented students like Michael, who are helping to further important research and gaining invaluable experience for their future careers in medicine,” said Denis Wilkins, MD, chair of the Peninsula Medical Foundation. “We wish him well with this exciting venture.”