Oral Cancer Screening Through Saliva-Test

Oral cancer, the world’s sixth most common cancer, to get a new simple, cost effective, saliva diagnosis.

A Michigan State University surgeon is teaming up with a Lansing-area dental benefits firm on a clinical trial to create a screening test that would improve detection of the cancer and improve survival rate.

Barry Weing, Professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Department of Surgery is working with Delta Dental Michigan’s Research and Data Institute to compile study data and recruit dentists.

The study will enrol 100-120 patients with white lesion sor growths in their mouths and tonsil areas to test as part of the clinical trial.

UCLA had earlier detected the presence of biomarkers that confirm the presence of oral cancer. Wenig and his team will be looking for these biomarkers. 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.”

“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.

About 1 in 4 persons with oral cancer die because of delayed diagnosis and treatment.

According to PubMed Health, approximately half of people with oral cancer live more than 5 years after they are diagnosed and treated.

The cure rate is 90% if the cancer is detected earlier.

“The results of this trial could be life changing for many people,” said Jed Jacobson, chief science officer at Delta Dental and a licensed dentist.” It is tremendous opportunity for the dental community to participate in what could be a groundbreaking research project.”

A study reports that an estimated 263,900 new cases and 128,000 deaths from oral cavity cancer (including lip cancer) occurred in 2008 worldwide. Smoking accounts for 42% of deaths from cancers of the oral cavity.

“These tests are as noninvasive as it gets, patients simply need to spit into a cup,” Wenig said.” The ease of the test will greatly expand our ability to effectively screen for the cancerous lesions.”

“Right now, there are no early screenings available for most head and neck cancers.”

The researchers added that these simple diagnostic tests have potential to accelerate health care savings as number of biopsies would reduce.

Wenig is collaborating with PerRx, a Pennsylvania company that will sponsor upcoming trials with the Food and Drug Administration.