Don't spit into the wind . . .

March 4, 2005

Still using CT and MR imaging to evaluate head and neck cancers? That's so last millennium. Salivary transcriptome profiling-or spit-is the diagnostic tool for the 21st century.

Still using CT and MR imaging to evaluate head and neck cancers? That's so last millennium. Salivary transcriptome profiling-or spit-is the diagnostic tool for the 21st century.

Using the RNA in saliva, Dr. Li Yang and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles differentiated head and neck cancer patients from a group of healthy subjects based on biomarkers found in their spittle. The researchers achieved 91% sensitivity and specificity (Clinical Cancer Research 2004:10;8442-8450).

Although saliva contains the same biomarkers for disease that are found in blood, they are present at much lower levels of magnitude. Nanotechnology now allows scientists to manipulate materials on an atomic or molecular scale, thus revealing the components of saliva.

Researchers hope the techniques will work for other diseases such as breast cancer.