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Saliva-based detection of oral cancer and other diseases on the horizon

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A combination of mRNA biomarkers present in saliva differentiates patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) from individuals without oral cancer, investigators report in the December 15th issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

‘This study paves the way for the use of saliva for the screening, diagnostics, and even treatment monitoring of patients with high impact human diseases, including cancer,’ Dr. David T. Wong, from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, told Reuters Health.The recent identification by microarray technology that a large panel of human RNA exists in saliva has fueled interest in salivary transcriptome diagnostics, Dr. Wong and colleagues explain in their report.In their study, they tested the theory that ‘distinct mRNA expression patterns can be identified in saliva from cancer patients, and the differentially expressed transcripts can serve as biomarkers for cancer detection.’Using oral SCC as the ‘proof-of-principle disease,’ they collected and analyzed saliva from 32 patients with primary T1/T2 oral SCC and a like number of healthy controls matched for age, gender, and smoking history.Dr. Wong’s team identified seven cancer-related genes that exhibited at least a 3.5-fold elevation in saliva (p < 0.01) in the patients with oral cancer. The combination of four of these markers (IL8, IL1B, OAZ1, and SAT) provided the best 'signature' for oral cancer, having a sensitivity and specificity of 91% in distinguishing OSCC from control subjects.This study, they conclude, demonstrates the utility of salivary transcriptome diagnostics for oral cancer detection and may have similar value in diagnosing other cancers and human diseases as well.Dr. Wong and colleagues will now try to validate their findings in a larger cohort of oral cancer patients. The current study was co-funded by the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.(Source: Clin Cancer Res 2004;10: Reuters Health: Megan Rauscher: Oncolink: December 2004.)

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Posted On: 17 December, 2004
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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