Pancreatic cancer is notoriously deadly, in large part because it's so rarely detected at early stages before it has spread beyond the pancreas. But researchers from the School of Dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, have found a potential new way to more easily detect pancreatic cancer: analyzing saliva.
The findings, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, show that it's possible to detect biomarkers for prostate cancer in saliva of mice with the cancer. Right now, pancreatic cancer can only be definitively diagnosed via biopsy, though imaging tests and blood tests can also indicate something is amiss.
"This paper is significant because it provides credibility to the mechanism of systemic disease detection in saliva," study researcher Dr. David Wong, a professor and associate dean of research at the dentistry school, said in a statement. "We have been able to substantiate the biological connection between systemic disease and the oral cavity."
The researchers conducted their study in mice with pancreatic tumors. They found that organelles called exosomes likely play a role in the appearance of the biomarkers, since when they suppressed tumor exosome production, the biomarkers no longer appeared in the saliva of the mice.
This isn't the first time a saliva test has been evaluated for the detection of cancer. Researchers from Michigan State University reported last year that they were doing research to make a saliva test that could detect oral cancer.