According to the National Cancer Institute, it is estimated that there will be 36,800 deaths from pancreatic cancer, 39,840 deaths due to breast cancer and 5,370 deaths from oral cancer in the Unites States alone.
Soon it may be possible to be take a simple saliva test and have results in as little as a day. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial for such cancers.
Scientists at the Institute for Advanced Biosciences (IAB) at Keio University in Japan have teamed up with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to conduct a study into saliva-based cancer diagnosis.
The researchers at IAB have been concentrating for a number of years into identifying biomarkers present in blood and urine to diagnosis a wide range of diseases. Now they have been researching finding these same biomarkers in saliva. The cancers that they identified during the study were pancreatic, breast and oral.
Researchers at IAB developed technology called Capillary Electrophoresis Mass Spectrometer (CE-MS) which is able to measure ionic metabolism.
Research has shown that cancer cells have a very different metabolism to that of healthy cells and this differential in energy can be used to identify cancerous cells.
The researchers believes that saliva is able to reveal a wide range of health conditions in the body.
Dr. David T. Wong from the School of Dentistry and Dental Research Institute at UCLA took saliva samples from 215 people, which included people already with cancer.
During the study the researchers were able to identify 54 substances present in the saliva. When they examined these substances they were able to detect 99 percent of pancreatic cancer cases, 95 percent of breast cancer cases and 80 percent of oral cancer cases.
This simple blood test would take less than 12 hours to complete and detect as many as 500 different substances found in the saliva.
This would be a major breakthrough in identifying pancreatic and oral cancers which, due to lack of symptoms, has a very low survival rate.
“Saliva can be sampled more easily and casually than blood or stool inspections. We would like to apply this technology not only to cancer cases but also other illnesses as well,” said Dr. Masaru Tomita, head of the Keio Institute.
UCLA's Dr. Wong suggested that many lives would be saved every year if a safe, cost-effective and wide-spread screening process could take place.