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Saliva test could dramatically increase detection of oral cancer
Date:4/17/2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. A Michigan State University surgeon is teaming up with a Lansing-area dental benefits firm on a clinical trial to create a simple, cost-effective saliva test to detect oral cancer, a breakthrough that would drastically improve screening and result in fewer people dying of the world's sixth most common cancer.

Barry Wenig, a professor in the College of Human Medicine's Department of Surgery and lead investigator on the project, is working with Delta Dental of Michigan's Research and Data Institute to compile study data and recruit dentists. The study will enroll 100-120 patients with white lesions or growths in their mouths and tonsil areas to test as part of the clinical trial.

Wenig and his team will be looking for certain biomarkers previously identified by researchers at UCLA; the biomarkers have been shown in studies to confirm the presence of oral cancer. By creating a simple saliva test which could identify the biomarker's presence, physicians and dentists would know which patients need treatment and which ones could avoid needless and invasive biopsies.

"Most white lesions are benign, so a majority of people who develop them are getting biopsies that are not needed," Wenig said. "Conversely, a simple test would allow us to identify those patients with malignant lesions and get them into treatment quicker."

Oral cancer has a poor survival rate linked to late detection, Wenig said: Only 60 percent of patients live beyond five years after diagnosis. Among black males, the survival rate is less than 38 percent.

"The key challenge to reduce the mortality and morbidity of oral cancer is to develop strategies to identify and detect the disease when it is at a very early stage," he said.

In addition to Delta Dental's Research and Data Institute, which works with researchers from leading universities to monitor advances in science, Wenig is collaborating with PeriRx, a Pennsylvania comp
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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert

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