Spit proteins could lead to oral cancer test: study
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A simple screen of proteins in human saliva was able to accurately detect a common type of oral cancer, a finding that may lead to a painless new diagnostic test, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The test can predict the mouth cancer in 93 percent of cases, a team at the University of California Los Angeles reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
It is among the first of a new set of spit-based diagnostic tests expected to arise from a protein map of human saliva developed by researchers at UCLA and other centers.
The map, published in March, identified all 1,116 unique proteins found in human saliva glands.
The latest findings focus on oral squamous cell carcinoma, which affects more than 300,000 people worldwide. More than 90 percent of cancers that start in the mouth are squamous cell cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Researchers at UCLA's School of Dentistry collected saliva samples from 64 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma and compared them with samples from 64 healthy patients.
They found that five protein biomarkers -- M2BP, MRP14, CD59, profilin and catalase -- predicted oral cancer 93 percent of the time.
"We have demonstrated a new approach for cancer biomarker discovery using saliva proteomics," said Shen Hu, who led the research.
The UCLA team is developing devices to detect these markers that could be studied in human trials.
"I believe a test measuring these biomarkers will come to a point of regular use in the future," Hu said in a statement.
Earlier this year, a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said it was working on a saliva test that could spot diseases like mouth and throat cancer in heavy smokers, heavy drinkers and others at high risk.
They identified more than half of the people in the study who had cancer.
About 13,000 people in the United States die of cancers of the head and neck and about 55,000 develop these cancers each year, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
(Editing by Maggie Fox)
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