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Salivary Proteins May Give Early Oral Cancer Warning

Panel of candidate biomarkers provides sensitivity of 90 percent in detecting oral squamous cell carcinoma

THURSDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Proteins found in the saliva of patients with oral cancer may serve as biomarkers that could assist in the early detection of the disease, researchers report in the Oct. 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Shen Hu, Ph.D., of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues collected saliva samples from 64 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma and 64 healthy controls matched by gender, ethnicity and smoking history. The researchers pooled whole saliva proteins from 16 patients and 16 controls, then profiled them using shotgun proteomics and used immunoassays to validate candidate biomarkers with another set of 48 patients and matched controls.

The researchers found many proteins that were differentially expressed in the two groups. They focused on 12 candidates for further validation, and five of them showed significant differences between the 48 patients and matched healthy controls. These were M2BP, MRP14, CD59, catalase and profilin. These markers collectively offer a sensitivity of 90 percent and a specificity of 83 percent for detection of oral squamous cell carcinoma, the report indicates.

"Oral squamous cell carcinoma is usually detected at late stages when the cancer has advanced and therefore results in poor prognosis and survival," the authors write. "The integration of early detection and screening based on protein biomarkers, in conjunction with a conventional oral examination, is very important. This warrants retrospective proteomic analyses of oral precancer and cancer to achieve discriminatory biomarkers for true early detection."

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