Spit test could provide early warning of head, neck cancers | Science News

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Spit test could provide early warning of head, neck cancers

DNA from tumors swim in saliva, blood plasma even before symptoms appear

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2:00pm, June 24, 2015

Doctors may be able to detect head and neck cancers more promptly with the help of saliva.

DNA from tumors can appear in the saliva and blood plasma of patients with head and neck cancers, researchers report June 24 in Science Translational Medicine. This DNA could help identify cancer, or its recurrence, at an early stage.  Previous studies have suggested using tumors’ distinctive DNA to detect cancer, says head and neck surgical oncologist Nishant Agrawal of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a coauthor of the paper. This study identified head and neck cancers with surprising accuracy, he says.

The results suggest that it may be possible to detect cancer in saliva from high-risk patients even before symptoms develop, says epidemiologist Eduardo Franco of McGill University in Montreal. “That would be good, because we don’t have any screening test for head and neck cancer,” he says. More than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed

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