A surgeon from a university in the USA is hoping that he, alongside a dental benefits company, may be able to produce a cheap saliva test to diagnose mouth cancerAbnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body.. They are launching a clinical trial of 100–120 patients who have white lesions in their mouth or on their tonsils to see if a saliva test will be able to identify biomarkersA substance that can be measured to help healthcare professionals to assess normal processes, disease processes or a person's response to treatment. previously found to be present in oral cancer.
Currently oral cancer is detected through a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. following symptoms such as a sore throat, tooth ache or swelling in the neck. It is hoped that the saliva test could prevent unnecessary biopsies and improve the accuracy of diagnosisThe process of determining which condition a patient may have.. Professor Barry Wenig, from Michigan State University, has elaborated by stating that “most white lesions are benignNot dangerous, usually applied to a tumour that is not malignant., so a majority of people who develop them are getting biopsies that are not needed… a simple test would allow us to identify those patients with malignantDescribes a tumour resulting from uncontrolled cell division that can invade other tissues and may spread to distant parts of the body. lesions and get them into treatment quicker.”
Mouth cancer is the world’s sixth most common cancer and has a poor survival rate with only 60% of patients surviving for five years after diagnosis. Professor Wenig has previously been working in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, where they have been researching a number of diagnostic salivary tests for other cancers including head and neck cancer.