Researchers believe they are one step closer to detecting pancreatic cancer – through a simple saliva test.
The team at UCLA School of Dentistry were able to identify the same biomarkers associated with pancreatic cancer in saliva, potentially enabling dentists to screen for the disease.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Most people with the disease will die within the first year of diagnosis, and just six per cent will survive five years.
Previous research has identified that dentists could help to screen for a number of chronic diseases, diabetes, potential heart problems, alcohol abuse and help with smoking cessation.
Pancreatic cancer accounted for 7,901 deaths in 2010. With previous research suggesting gum disease could be linked to developing the disease, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, has called for further research into the potential screening process.
Dr Carter said: "Pancreatic cancer is extremely aggressive. If there is any possibility of dentists detecting it through a saliva test, further research must be done. What it does highlight is the importance of regular visits to the dentist.
"Prevention remains the best way to ensure a high standard of oral health. Regular check-ups, as often as the dentist recommends, is one of the Foundation's key messages. They help to cut down on the need for un-necessary emergency treatment and nip any developing problems early.
"If you have swollen gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth or regular mouth infections appear, you should visit your dentist. Keeping to a good routine that involves brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and regular use of interdental brushes will help to keep any problems to a minimum."
The researchers examined mice models with pancreatic cancer whose saliva showed evidence of biomarkers for pancreatic cancer. When they inhibited the production of exosomes at the source of the tumour, the researchers found that the pancreatic cancer biomarkers no longer appeared in the mouse's saliva.