New saliva test could help determine risks for cancer

Scientists have found a new saliva test that can measure the amount of potential carcinogens stuck to a person’s DNA, interfering with the action of genes involved in health and disease.

Researchers at the National Chung Cheng University (NCCU), Taiwan, said it could lead to a commercial test to help determine risks for cancer and other diseases.

“The test measures the amount of damaged DNA in a person’s body,” said Professor Hauh-Jyun Candy Chen, Ph.D., at NCCU, who led the research team.

“This is very important because such damaged DNA — we call this ‘DNA adducts’ — is a biomarker that may help doctors diagnose diseases, monitor how effective a treatment is and also recommend things high-risk patients can do to reduce the chances of actually getting a disease.

“We tried urine and blood and found these adducts. Then we turned our attention to saliva. It’s much more convenient to collect a sample of saliva,” stated Chen.

The new test measures the levels of five key DNA adducts, including some that form as a result of cigarette smoking.

The DNA is present in white blood cells found naturally in saliva and from cells shed from the lining of the mouth.

Chen uses a very sensitive laboratory instrument called a mass spectrometer to analyse for DNA adducts.

The study was presented during the 242nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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