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Franzmann Lab

Head and Neck Cancer Early Detection and Treatment

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Investigator / Contact Person Elizabeth Franzmann


There are over 529,000 new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, together here referred to as oral cancer, with more than 292,000 deaths each year worldwide. The main risk factors are tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption and infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV infection is responsible for a rising number of oropharyngeal cancers, one of the few cancers increasing in incidence in the US (ACS Facts and Figures 2012). More than 40% of patients with oral cancer die within five years due to a late-stage diagnosis. Early diagnosis can more than double a patient's chances of survival.

Our group has invented an inexpensive and noninvasive early detection test based on solCD44 and total protein levels in oral rinse specimens, which helps distinguish individuals with molecular features associated with oral cancer from the billions at risk due to tobacco and alcohol use and  human HPV infection. 

Our research interests include human oral cancer risk, prevention and treatment. We focus on characterizing salivary molecular markers for future commercial application as inexpensive and noninvasive early detection tests, and investigating CD44 as potential target for oral cancer therapy.