Saliva test for breast cancer on horizon

HOUSTON, TEXAS; December 7, 2008

Three years ago, Sherry Snook feared she was facing breast cancer.

She remembers, "I found a lump while I was taking a shower."

Sherry's lump was tested, and did turn out to be cancerous, and she's now going through treatment.

A team at the University of Texas is working on a test to detect breast cancer faster than ever before, within minutes using just saliva.

Dr. Charles Streckfus says, "What we wanted was something that was safe, easy to collect, and could give you real time results."

The potential test contains microchip technology that checks for proteins.

Dr. Streckfus says, "These proteins are in saliva, in every day existence. However, when in the presence of cancer, these proteins, their profile becomes altered."

The level of the proteins tells the tale.

William Dubinsky, Ph.D., at the University, says, "If we can find one or more proteins that we can tell is markedly elevated or markedly depressed by the cancer, then that becomes a potential biomarker for the disease."

And for those who already have cancer, the proteins may tell if the treatment is working.

Dr. Dubinsky says, "If it's not working, then you can change the regimen of treatment to something else."

The new test is almost ready to be submitted to the FDA for approval.

Researchers are doing final checks on its accuracy.

"In other words, determine the number of false positives and false negatives and see if it is as good or better than mammography, " says Dr. Streckfus.

The University of Texas isn't the only institution convinced that a saliva test for breast cancer could work.

Trials are underway on a similar one at Penn State's Hershey Medical Center.

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.