Researchers at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry have discovered a new saliva test for oral cancer that could reduce false-positive results. As new oral cancer diagnoses rose to more than 41,000 in 2013, the demand for early detection continues to increase.
Yi-Shing Lisa Cheng, DDS, PhD, an associate professor in diagnostic sciences at Baylor College, has been working to develop a saliva test as an oral cancer screening tool, according to an A&M announcement. In 2009, she received a $381,000 R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to find reliable oral cancer salivary biomarkers, which can be used as indicators of disease or other health conditions.
Dr. Cheng recently received a $50,000 faculty bridge grant from Texas A&M Health Science Center and A&M Baylor College of Dentistry’s diagnostic sciences department to continue this research. The goal is to determine whether patients with oral lichen planus and periodontal disease exhibit false positives for the future oral cancer saliva tests.
Dr. Cheng noted that early detection of cancer is always good and using a saliva test is a noninvasive and relatively easy procedure. Her research differs from models that compare salivary biomarkers of oral cancer patients with those of completely healthy individuals. Instead, Dr. Cheng looked at the biomarkers of patients with noncancerous oral conditions.
It’s an effort that could save patients thousands of dollars, not to mention the stress and health complications associated with false-positive results. Dr. Cheng’s Baylor team and researchers from the University of Toledo in Ohio have identified some promising candidate salivary biomarkers, but more testing is needed to validate initial results.
Saliva samples are being collected from the following groups:
- Patients with oral cancer
- Patients with periodontal disease who are smokers and nonsmokers
- Patients with active and inactive oral lichen planus
- Healthy, nonsmoking patients who have none of these diseases