For early-stage detection of pancreatic cancer, a team of researchers has found bio-markers in saliva.
In the new study, the multidisciplinary group of investigators from the UCLA School of Dentistry, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the UCLA School of Public Health and UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center demonstrated the usefulness of salivary diagnostics in the effort to find and fight the disease.
Their results have been published by the journal Gastroenterology.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common type of cancer of the pancreas, is also the most lethal of all cancers, with a mortality rate that is approximately the same as the rate of incidence.
A "silent killer," pancreatic cancer produces its typical symptoms - abdominal pain and jaundice - only in the advanced stage of the disease, making it difficult to fight.
Worldwide, the prevalence of pancreatic cancer is so high, and the disease is so deadly, that it calls out for a reliable means of early diagnosis," said the study's senior investigator, Dr. David Wong, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., UCLA's Felix and Mildred Yip Professor of Dentistry and associate dean of research at the dental school. "The ability to implement safe, cost-effective, widespread screening could be the answer to saving thousands of lives each year - and that is what we are after."
In the study, the researchers successfully linked changes in the molecular signatures found in human saliva to the presence of early-stage pancreatic cancer.
By analyzing altered gene expression, the researchers identified four messenger RNA (mRNA) bio-markers - KRAS, MBD3L2, ACRV1 and DPM1 - that differentiate pancreatic cancer patients from non-cancer subjects (both those diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis and healthy controls) with 90 percent sensitivity and 95 percent specificity.
"Our recent findings underscore the potential for salivary diagnostics to play a pivotal role in the detection of systemic cancers and diseases," said Lei Zhang, Ph.D., an assistant researcher at the UCLA School of Dentistry Dental Research Institute and co-first author of the study.