Professor Vivek Tanavde of Ahmedabad University led a team that made a ground-breaking discovery in human saliva that could change how invasive traditional biopsy is performed on patients with oral cancer.
Researchers from the Oral Cancer Cluster at Ahmedabad University’s School of Arts and Sciences and medical professionals from the HCG Cancer Centre’s Department of Head and Neck Oncology have found a novel miRNA in patients’ saliva that can be used to predict tumour aggressiveness and improve oral cancer prognosis.
In essence, oral cancer sufferers will just need to spit a handful of times into a tube to monitor the growth rate of the cancerous tumour and the success of treatment, according to study published in Switzerland’s International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
The team was led by Dr. Tanavde, an associate professor in the school of arts and sciences at Ahmedabad University, and included senior oncologists Drs. Kaustubh Patel and Dushyant Mandlik from the HCG Cancer Centre.
Dr. Tanavde cites a number of difficulties in treating oral cancer.
“Patients don’t consult a doctor until there is a visible patch which might be too late for therapy. If the tumour is surgically removed, one doesn’t know if resistance has developed unless a follow-up is done, which typically happens only with visible signs of tumour growth, and there is an invasive biopsy needed at every stage,” he said.
“Our idea is to move towards non-invasive, definitive methods that would enable accurate monitoring of tumour response to therapy. At the same time, we would like to make this widely accessible and cost-effective,” Dr Tanavde added.
He said that the team used commercially available kits to purify salivary exosomes.
“Then, through a simple PCR, which is now available in the smallest of towns, we can measure the expression of miRNA-1307,” said the professor.
According to a research released by the International Agency for Research in Cancer, an intergovernmental organisation affiliated with the World Health Organization, lip/oral cavity malignancies account for 10.3% of new cases and 8.8% of fatalities from oral cancer in India (WHO).
A useful bodily fluid for liquid biopsies is saliva. Still, earlier attempts to use saliva for liquid biopsy have been hampered by the difficulty of isolating high-quality RNA from saliva.
The use of salivary exosomal miRNAs as biomarkers makes it easier to collect samples repeatedly, monitor a disease in real time, and gauge how well a treatment is working.
Using a liquid biopsy method, this work has isolated a single salivary exosomal miRNA prognosticator that can help improve patient outcomes.