In one early study based on a risk model, presented here at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, the UCLA scientists reported that genetic "biomarkers" isolated in saliva predicted oral squamous cell carcinoma in about nine out of 10 cases.
A recent study by this group, published in Clinical Cancer Research, disclosed similar predictive powers for head and neck cancers.
"These results indicate that such biomarkers found in saliva, called salivary transcriptomes, can be exploited for robust, high-throughput and reproducible tools for early disease detection," said David T. Wong, professor and associate dean of research at the UCLA School of Dentistry and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the study's senior investigator.
"This is a proof-of-principal study, but our results will need to be validated in a larger sample size in a blinded manner," he added.
Also participating in the study were Yang Li, David Elashoff, MyungShin Oh, Stephanie Tsung, and Mai N. Brooks at UCLA.
Harvesting saliva and other bodily fluids for molecules that detect early cancers has long been a goal of scientists seeking quick and easy screening tools that could be done in a doctor's office. The search for such tests, however, has been stalled until recently with the advance of several emerging technologies including improved methods to identify, collect, preserve and amplify genetic material and proteins.
In this study, the UCLA team found they could isolate messenger RNA from saliva and blood sera that might have diagnostic value for detecting early cancer. In the cell, messenger RNA or mRNA carries a copy of the genetic code or DNA, housed in the cell's nucleus, to other parts of the cell for protein manufacture. T
Source:American Association for Cancer Research