Saliva test could aid dentists in oral cancer diagnosis

Dentists are often the first people to spot early signs of oral cancer, but if a potential biomarker test makes it to the market, they could help even more, just by making their patients spit in a cup. In a collaboration between Michigan State University surgeon Barry Wenig, Delta Dental of Michigan's Research and Data Institute, and PeriRx, saliva from 100-120 patients with lesions or growths in their mouths will be screened against a panel of known biomarkers. The advantage of this test would be its simplicity and non-invasiveness. Not only could it avoid those people with non-cancerous lesions having to go through unpleasant and invasive biopsies, but also it could mean that patients that have something a bit more sinister would get diagnosis at an early stage and quicker access to treatment, improving outcomes and cutting costs. This is important because late-detected oral cancer has a poor prognosis, with a survival rate of 60% at 5 years, falling to 38% for black males. There are currently no early screenings available for most head and neck cancers, according to Wenig. Press release