Saliva Holds Clues to Oral Cancer

Study finds high levels of four molecules point to trouble

MONDAY, Jan. 3, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- A major advance in using saliva to detect oral cancer is outlined in a study funded by the U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Scientists found they were able to measure for elevated levels of four distinct cancer-associated molecules in saliva. Using this method, they had a 91 percent accuracy rate in distinguishing between healthy people and those diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma.

This is the first study to report that distinct patterns of cancer-linked messenger RNA can be measured in saliva and indicate the presence of a developing tumor. The findings appear in the current issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Messenger RNA provides a chemical record that a particular gene has been expressed.

The researchers used saliva and blood samples from 32 people who'd been diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma but hadn't yet received treatment. They plan a larger study to determine if they can use saliva samples to distinguish between various stages of oral cancer.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about oral cancer.

SOURCE: U.S. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, news release, December 2004
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