A chip device in a tool about the size and shape of a toothbrush may also be a lot quicker -- delivering results in 15 minutes -- than the days it takes for a biopsy.
Researchers at Rice University, the University of Texas Health Science Centers at Houston and San Antonio, and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center said the new nano-bio-chip indicator was 97 percent as sensitive as more invasive techniques in detecting oral cancers.
The study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, also found the diagnostic nano-bio-chip developed at Rice was 93 percent specific in detecting patients with malignant or pre-malignant lesions.
"One of the key discoveries in this paper is to show that the miniaturized, non-invasive approach produces about the same result as the pathologists do," study leader John McDevitt of Rice University said in a statement.
McDevitt and colleagues are working toward an inexpensive chip that differentiates pre-malignancies from the vast majority of lesions -- 95 percent -- that will not become cancerous.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]