An inexpensive 10-minute saliva test is possibly the future of non-invasive cancer screening.
Though the test is highly accurate and simple enough to do at home, it’s your doctor, dentist, or pharmacist who will be most likely to use the test in conjunction with other diagnostic tools. For example, if a lung x-ray were to uncover a suspicious seeming nodule, a doctor could test saliva to help determine whether a cancer is likely.
Right now, cancer can only be detected using blood tests if doctors have already decided the genetic signature. This genetic determination is usually made after taking a biopsy and sequencing a tumor. Blood exams can then be used to monitor the spread of cancer. But it’s not used for initial testing and may result in false positives.
In contrast, a liquid biopsy, such as this saliva test, is said to provide enough data to reach a definitive diagnosis as soon as a tumor develops..
According to David Wong, the UCLA oncology professor who headed up the current research:
“The test can reliably find genetic mutations involving epidermal growth factor receptor( EGFR ), a protein on the surface of cells. It normally helps the cells grow and divide, but some cells in non-small cell lung cancer have too much EGFR, which stimulates them grow faster. Several narcotics can block the growth signal from EGFR, and their utilization could be ordered promptly by a clinician.”
The liquid biopsy using saliva is currently in full clinical trials with patients who have lung cancer, and researchers hope for FDA approval by 2018. Though the clinical trials concentrate simply on lung cancer and the realm of cancer is complex, Dr. Wong believes saliva tests could be helpful for determining the early presence of many other types of cancer, as well, including oral cancer.
Once approved, the test should cost less than $25.