'Swish and spit' test offers early detection of oral cancer

A new "swish and spit" method, developed at the University at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York, has joined the slew of diagnostic methods that aim to detect oral cancer at an early stage.

Researchers conducted a preliminary study by collecting epithelial cells of the mouth with a "swish and spit" method. Eight subjects with oral cancer or a history of abnormal oral lesions and five healthy subjects brushed and rinsed with saline, and then provided saliva samples.

The samples were studied for a fibrous protein molecule known as cytokeratin 8 (CK8) which is a cancer marker. Study results were presented at the 2008 American Academy of Dental Research session in Dallas.

"Cytokeratin 8 expression is closely related to abnormalities of epithelial cells and shows a positive correlation with the development of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma," said Jennifer Frustino, a predoctoral student at the UB School of Dental Medicine and first author on the study. "These markers are especially useful because they are abundant, stable, and easily stained and detected. epithelial cells line all internal and external body surfaces."

Researchers noted that subjects with oral cancer or a history of oral lesions had a much higher percentage of cells with cytokeratin 8 than healthy patients.

"This is the first study that detects CK8 as a biomarker through an easy collection method and simple analysis," said Frustino. "This marker may someday provide a focused target for early detection through a simple test done routinely in a dental office."

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