Australian researchers have developed a saliva-based diagnostic test for throat cancer associated with HPV infections.
Saliva tests on an apparently healthy 63-year-old Australian man revealed viral DNA in his saliva.
ENT consultations confirmed nothing, and it was only during the operation to remove his tonsils that the doctors discovered the tumor.
It all started with a 63-year-old Australian, ex-smoker, a heterosexual, and an oral sex addict. With the help of a diagnosis based on a test that looks for HPV 16 viral DNA in saliva, laryngeal cancer could be detected in time. The patient was clinical without any symptoms such as pain, discomfort, or bleeding. The researchers published their results in Frontiers in Oncology.
Saliva tests confirmed at the time of surgery
The Australian belonged to a cohort of 656 people, all in apparent good health, who volunteered to participate in a clinical trial conducted jointly by the Universities of Brisbane and Queensland, Australia. As part of the study, they were required to undergo regular HPV DNA testing in their saliva for several years for a total of 36 months. During these tests, the researchers observed the continuous presence of viral DNA in three of them, as well as in the 63-year-old patient mentioned earlier in the article. In him, they noticed an increase in viral DNA, with the number of viral copies increasing from almost three at the beginning of the study to over 1,000 36 months later.
The patient then underwent an ENT consultation to find out more. No lesions were found, neither to the naked eye nor during an examination with a lamp. The patient had two options: monitor his condition or remove his tonsils. He chose the second option, and during the operation, a 2-millimeter tumor, a squamous cell carcinoma, was discovered in his left tonsil. The rest of the tissue was normal and had no viral DNA. Two weeks after the tonsillectomy, the viral load in the saliva samples was no longer detectable and the patient was considered cured.
Oral sex increases the risk of oropharyngeal carcinoma
The success of this saliva test in detecting this patient’s cancer has not yet been confirmed to imagine using it successfully on a larger scale. The links between certain types of HPV and throat cancer are not yet well understood. It is known that oral sex transmission, as has probably been the case in Australia, increases the risk of throat cancer in men by about 22%. The remainder is related to the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and repeated contact with wood dust, which are much more often responsible for about two-thirds of these cancers. In the US, there are around 65,630 new cases of head and neck cancer every year. With 14,500 deaths it is one of the most common causes of cancer mortality in the US.