Diagnostic accuracy of brush biopsy–based cytology for the early detection of oral cancer and precursors in Fanconi anemia

Eunike Velleuer, Ralf Dietrich, Natalia Pomjanski, Isabela Karoline de Santana Almeida Araujo, Bruno Eduardo Silva de Araujo, Isis Sroka, Stefan Biesterfeld, Alfred Böcking, Martin Schramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals with Fanconi anemia (FA) have a 500-fold to 700-fold elevated risk, much earlier onset, and limited therapeutic options for oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) compared with the general population. The early detection of SCC, or preferably its precursors, is mandatory to retain curative therapeutic options. Due to frequent synchronic and metachronic oral lesions, tissue biopsies, as usually recommended by guidelines, often are not feasible. In the current study, an alternative strategy for early detection using oral brush biopsy–based cytology was validated regarding its diagnostic accuracy. Methods: Over a 12-year period, the oral cavities of a large cohort of 713 individuals with FA were inspected systematically and brush biopsy–based cytology of 1233 visible oral lesions was performed. In cases of inconclusive cytology, analysis of DNA ploidy was performed whenever possible. The results were correlated to a long-term clinicopathological follow-up reference standard. Results: A total of 737 lesions were suitable for statistical analysis, including 86 lesions with at least high-grade oral epithelial dysplasia in 30 patients. For cytology, the sensitivity and specificity were 97.7% and 84.5%, respectively. Additional analysis of DNA ploidy increased the sensitivity and specificity to 100% and 92.2%, respectively. Conclusions: Careful inspection of the oral cavity of individuals with FA followed by brush biopsy–based cytology appears to identify visible oral, potentially malignant and malignant lesions that warrant treatment. Approximately 63% of SCC and precursor lesions are detected at a noninvasive or early stage. Negative cytology or a lack of DNA aneuploidy can exclude high-grade oral epithelial dysplasia or SCC with high accuracy and thus reduce the need for invasive diagnostic biopsies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-413
Number of pages11
JournalCancer cytopathology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Fanconi anemia
  • cytology
  • early detection of cancer
  • image cytometry
  • oral cancer
  • sensitivity
  • squamous intraepithelial lesions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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