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Saliva Test to Detect Breast
Cancer Under Study



Excerpt By Kathleen Doheny, Reuters Health

SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) - A simple and inexpensive saliva test may detect breast cancer in its early stages, according to US researchers who have studied the approach for 5 years.

The test, which is being developed commercially by a Wisconsin company, identifies and measures the levels of a tumor marker called c-erbB-2, which is also known as HER2/neu, in a woman's saliva. When HER2/neu is elevated, it strongly suggests the presence of breast cancer, according to Dr. Charles F. Streckfus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, who will present the findings Saturday at the International Association for Dental Research annual meeting in San Diego.

Working on what Streckfus calls an "educated hunch," his team isolated a soluble salivary form of the HER2/neu protein. They then evaluated more than 125 patients--including some with breast cancer, some with benign tumors, and some healthy "control" patients--and found that elevated saliva levels of HER2/neu correlated with breast malignancies in 87% of cases.

High levels of the marker in saliva also correlate with high levels in the bloodstream, Streckfus said. And when HER2/neu levels are not elevated, it correlates with a benign tumor or a healthy state.

About 1,100 patients are now enrolled in advanced-stage clinical trials of the test, according to John Wundrock, president and CEO of MedicGroup in Jackson, Wisconsin, which is developing two commercial versions of the saliva test.

MedicGroup hopes to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for approval for both tests by year's end and to have both on the market by the end of 2003. The test is expected to be inexpensive, but exact costs are yet to be determined.

The saliva tests are seen by the developers as a supplement to physical examination and mammography. Besides aiding in breast cancer detection, the test could also potentially help doctors monitor treatment and perform follow-up screening, Streckfus said.


Reference Source 89

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