"It is a Holy Grail of cancer detection to be able to measure the presence of a cancer without a biopsy, so it is very appealing to think that we could detect a cancer-specific marker in a patient's saliva," said Dr. Jennifer Grandis, professor of Otolaryngology and Pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Cancer Institute, and a senior editor of Clinical Cancer Research.
MicroRNAs are molecules produced in cells that have the ability to simultaneously control activity and assess the behaviour of multiple genes. Scientists believe that they may hold the key to early detection of cancer.
The emergence of a microRNA profile in saliva represents a major step forward in the early detection of oral cancer.
"The oral cavity is a mirror to systemic health, and many diseases that develop in other parts of the body have an oral manifestation," said David T. Wong, Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry.uring the study, the researchers measured microRNA levels in the saliva of 50 patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma, and 50 healthy control patients.
Their efforts led to the detection of approximately 50 microRNAs, says the study report.
The article points out that two specific microRNAs-miR-125a and miR-200a-were present at significantly lower levels in patients with oral cancer than in the healthier controls.
Wong admitted that the study's findings would have to be confirmed by a larger and longer analysis.