UBC Dentistry Researchers Recognized with IADR/AADR Award


Dr. Catherine Poh with the William J. Gies Award, along with Dr. Yuqi (Sarah) Zhu (l.), research associate, and Esther Chen (r.), 3rd year UBC dental student.

Drs. Catherine Poh and Lewei Zhang from the University of British Columbia faculty of dentistry and their colleagues received the 2013 William J. Gies Award from the International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR) for their paper, “Unique FISH Patterns Associated with Cancer Progression of Oral Dysplasia1.” The award was presented to the researchers for authoring the best clinical research paper published in the Journal of Dental Research over a 12-month period.

The paper describes the use of molecular markers to characterize oral premalignant lesions according to their risk of developing into cancer. The results showed that changes in the number of gene copies at specific genomic loci, as visualized using fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), can be used to identify high risk lesions—those that are more likely to develop into oral cancer.

The study’s findings have implications for patient treatment. The techniques can be easily adapted to the existing set-up of many pathology laboratories and make it possible to provide patients with more information to help them better understand their treatment options. If they’re shown to be at high risk, patients can opt to start aggressive treatment earlier.

“Currently, we adopt a ‘wait-and-watch’ approach to pathologically similar low-grade precancers—lesions either take 10 years or more to develop into cancer, in the majority of cases, or will never become cancerous,” says Dr. Poh, lead author of the article. “The markers identified in this paper allow us to stratify these lesions, which can have a potentially enormous impact on patients in terms of alleviating anxiety and fear of the unknown and reducing costs for unnecessary follow-ups.

On the other hand, patients shown to be at high risk can get a head start on treatments that they might not have seriously considered otherwise,” adds Dr. Poh.

The William J. Gies Awards were presented at the 91st General Session and Exhibition of the IADR in Seattle, Washington, in March 2013.


  1. Poh CF, Zhu Y, Chen E, Berean KW, Wu L, Zhang L, Rosin MP. Unique FISH patterns associated with cancer progression of oral dysplasia. J Dent Res. 2012;91(1):52-7. Epub 2011 Oct 11.