Saliva Test Could Detect Cancer

Your saliva is truly incredible! Not only does it protect your oral health, but according to a recent article from Medical News Today, it can now be used to help identify and track the progress of certain cancers. A team of researchers at the School of Dentistry at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), led by oral cancer and saliva diagnostics researcher Prof. David Wong, has been working on their “liquid biopsy” for over a decade. The test promises to deliver fast, less invasive means of detecting circulating tumor DNA in bodily fluids, like saliva and blood, making it easier to diagnose the disease. The prototype was first presented by Prof. Wong at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.

In 2013, Prof. Wong and his team published their work to show how electric field-induced release and measurements (EFIRM) can show how saliva contains tumor-shed exosomes, previously only found in blood. The EFIRM device analyzes the contents of exosomes, which are tiny bags of molecules that cells release. After the device forces the exosomes to release their contents, it then uses bio-recognition to identify the released biomolecules. Prof. Wong claims that this approach provides a higher accuracy when compared to current sequencing technology. The test takes approximately 10 minutes and can be done in the doctor’s office. The first trial in lung cancer patients is scheduled to take place in China this year in a collaboration between UCLA and West China Hospital of Sichuan University.

Developers of the technology hope that the test will help form a set of diagnostic tools that can be used by doctors to determine if cancer is a likely diagnosis. For example, if a patient has a lung X-ray that shows a suspicious nodule, the test can quickly be administered to determine if cancer is a probable. If the test detects genetic mutations in a protein, which can occur rapidly, the appropriate inhibitor drugs can be ordered promptly. The research team is currently working on a saliva test that can detect mutations linked to oropharyngeal cancers, or cancers of the mouth and the back of the throat. The use of saliva for non-invasive diagnostic testing could make diagnosis of cancer quick and easy, significantly impacting the effectiveness of treatment and survival.

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