US researchers are conducting a study to identify and quantify specific protein markers in human saliva, which will help in the early, non-invasive diagnosis of breast cancer.
The study, led by Charles Streckfus, D.D.S., a University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston professor of diagnostic sciences with an expertise in salivary function and molecular epidemiology, demonstrates how the onset of breast cancer produces a change in the normal type and amount of proteins in glandular secretions from the salivary glands.
The protein profile in a healthy person is altered by the presence of cancer.
"Why not the dentist? Most folks, especially women and children, visit the dental office way more often than they ever see the physician. Saliva is a non-invasive, quicker way for detection," Streckfus said.
In the study, the research team reviewed saliva samples from 30 patients.
They analysis revealed, 49 proteins that differentiated healthy patients from those with benign breast tumours and those with malignant breast tumours.
These findings suggest that patients can be tested for breast cancer by examining certain protein markers in their saliva during a visit to a dentist's office or other health care facilities.
The objective of the study is to bring a type of diagnostic test, which is capable of detecting the presence of cancer before a tumor forms, into the dental office or other health care facilities.
The technology aims to improve the ease and effectiveness with which dental professionals and other health care providers can provide quick, accurate diagnostic information and physician referrals to their patients.
The study is published in the journal Cancer Investigation.