Aditi Bhattacharya, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and research pathologist at the NYU Oral Cancer Center, has been awarded the inaugural research grant from the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (AAOMP). The new AAOMP grant provides support for early career oral and maxillofacial pathologists to establish independent research programs. Dr. Bhattacharya will study the microscopic characteristics of oral cancer to identify features that are associated with the subset of oral cancers that are painful.
Approximately 75% of oral cancer patients experience pain at the site of the cancer; oral cancer pain usually worsens with chewing and talking. Opioids are used to treat oral cancer pain but patients develop tolerance to these medications. Pain is the most common symptom of oral cancer to prompt patients to seek the expertise of a dentist or physician. Suspicious lesions are biopsied and evaluated by an oral pathologist. Dr. Bhattacharya explained, "as pathologists we are trained to evaluate specimens under the microscope and identify diagnostic features in the tissue." Surgeons rely on information from pathologists when planning surgical resection of a tumor. Pathologic features that might distinguish painful from non-painful cancers have never been identified. Dr. Bhattacharya will microscopically compare tissues from painful and non-painful oral cancers. Dr. Bhattacharya states, "under the microscope every oral cancer specimen is unique. I seek to identify microscopic features that can be used to distinguish painful from non-painful oral cancers. My work might reveal information that can be used to help manage oral cancer pain."
Dr. Bhattacharya completed her doctoral and postdoctoral education at the University of California, San Francisco. She undertook residency training at Texas A&M University and Baylor College of Dentistry and is a board certified oral and maxillofacial pathologist. Dr. Bhattacharya has held a position at NYU Dentistry since 2016.