Chicago's Tata Centre for Development develops saliva-based oral cancer test

Taking a decisive step towards validating a non-invasive diagnostic test that is capable of identifying oral cancer at an early stage, the Tata Centre for Development (TCD) at University of Chicago and Strand Life Sciences, have developed a saliva-based test that could be used in patients to detect tumour DNA from mouth cancers. The core objective of this research project is to detect presence of mutations in a non-invasive method from the tumour in patients with oral cancer. ­

Currently, observational clinical trial is going on throughout India to develop the test.  TCD has entered into a collaboration with the Tata Medical Centre to augment efforts towards collecting tumour tissue and matched saliva from patients with oral cancer.
TCD at the University of Chicago works to identify novel solutions to India’s pressing development challenges to ensure that these ideas are translated into outcomes that improve people’s lives. TCD targets research projects that contribute new, evidence-based solutions to difficult development problems whose insights can affect change in the real world.   
“With recent advances in sequencing technology, we have been able to demonstrate that tumour DNA can be detected in saliva of patients. It is an easily accessible, non-invasive liquid biopsy method. Our collaboration with the Tata Memorial Centre will help us in developing the assay and conducting the trial,” says Nishant Agrawal,  director of head and neck surgical oncology,  University of Chicago Medical Centre.
“This test uses the potential of saliva — which contains cells, DNA, RNA and proteins — to detect the presence of and measure the rate of prevalence of mutations in the tumour. The research holds promise for both the patients and the doctors because it gives them an opportunity to address pre-cancerous lesions and early detection of invasive cancer and treat it with simple interventions. We are happy to contribute to this important piece of work,” said Dr. Rajendra Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre.
Oral cancer ranks among the top three types of cancer in India. It is also the leading cancer among men and the fifth most frequently occurring cancer in women. India, reportedly, contributes nearly 60 per cent to the oral cancer burden worldwide, and the number of cases is expected to double by 2030. Unfortunately, 60-80 per cent of oral cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages when survival is well below 50 per cent.
Evidence suggests that if oral cancer is diagnosed early and treated as localised tumours, the five-year survival rate would significantly improve. The five-year survival rate for stage III or IV cancer is between 20 and 40 per cent as opposed to 70-90 per cent for stage I or II cancer.
In addition to improved survival, treatment of early stage cancer is also associated with improved quality of life and decreased medical costs. Salivary DNA diagnostics, and eventually screening, will decrease morbidity and mortality from oral cancer in India, while minimising the disparity in outcomes due to access or socio-economic barriers.
About Tata Centre for Development at UChicago
Representing the joint work of the Tata Trusts and the University of Chicago, TCD asks difficult questions, challenges conventional thinking and creates a new model for impact in India.
About Tata Memorial Centre
The Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) is a specialist cancer treatment and research centre, closely associated with the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC). It is a national comprehensive cancer centre for prevention, treatment, education and research in cancer and is recognised as one of the leading cancer centres in the world. The TMC promotes outstanding service through evidence-based practice of oncology and gives emphasis on research which is affordable, innovative and relevant to the needs of the country.