LOS ANGELES, USA: Dental researchers have developed a novel technology that can detect mutations characteristic of lung cancer in saliva. In a series of tests, the researchers were able to demonstrate that detecting such mutations in saliva using the new method was as effective as testing with plasma. Thus, they believe it could be a noninvasive, cost-effective and rapid alternative to conventional test approaches.


The new technology, called electric field-induced release and measurement (EFIRM), was developed at the University of California, Los Angeles. According to the researchers, it allows for rapid testing of a patient's saliva for epidermal growth factor receptor gene mutation, an indicator of lung cancer.

In contrast to conventional methods of detection that are mainly based on tissue biopsy, which is invasive, expensive, and time consuming, EFIRM relies on a multiplexible electrochemical sensor that can detect these gene mutations directly in bodily fluids. The total detection time is less than 10 minutes and only requires a small saliva sample, the researchers said.

In clinical application, for example, EFIRM detected epidermal growth factor receptor gene mutations in the saliva and plasma of 22 patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma. In blinded tests on saliva samples from 40 patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma, the researchers achieved nearly identical results as with bronchoscopy-based detection.

The findings may have important implications for further development of effective and noninvasive methods for early detection of lung cancer. Early detection significantly improves survival rates in this patient group. The new method could be combined with tissue DNA testing or used as a complement to biopsy in cases in which the size of the tumor is insufficient for DNA extraction.

The study, titled "Noninvasive Saliva-Based EGFR Gene Mutation Detection in Patients with Lung Cancer," was published in the November issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.