Saliva Proteins Could Reflect Oral Cancer

Author:  Shrestha Suvash
Date:  October 2008

Examining saliva proteins could be an easy and a simple way to detect oral cancer. David T. Wong, professor and associate dean for research, at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry reported the findings in the October 1 issue of clinical cancer research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Wong has been working as a part of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)'s Human Saliva Proteome Project, which focuses on identifying and cataloging proteins present in saliva in healthy subjects. Some previous studies have also hinted – saliva proteins could be a useful diagnostic tool for oral cancer. However, Wong and his team were the first to evaluate the protein levels from oral cancer patients.

They studied saliva samples from 64 oral cancer patients and 64 healthy subjects. They came up with some possible biomarkers that are all proteins found in saliva. When they used these bio-chemicals as markers of oral cancer, they could correctly diagnose oral cancer 93% of the time.

Collection and processing of saliva is very simple and non invasive as well. That's why it could be a very good diagnostic tool. However, there still seems to be few steps to go before we actually have an ideal diagnostic tool, as Shen Hu, assistant professor of Oral Biology and Proteomics at the University of California said, "This test is currently not available, but we are developing point-of-care micro fluidic devices to detect these markers that we can use in clinical trials."

"I believe a test measuring these biomarkers will come to a point of regular use in the future," Shen Hu added. "We have demonstrated a new approach for cancer biomarker discovery using saliva proteomics." That makes us hopeful of the future.