Ahmedabad, Oct 10: Dr Vivek Tanavde, an Ahmedabad University professor, has led a team that made a breakthrough discovery in human saliva, which promises to alter the invasive method of conventional biopsy in oral cancer patients.
Researchers of the Oral Cancer Cluster at the Biological and Life Sciences division of the School of Arts and Sciences, Ahmedabad University, and doctors from the Department of Head and Neck Oncology, HCG Cancer Centre, Ahmedabad, discovered a novel miRNA in the saliva of patients that will help predict tumour aggressiveness and better prognosis of oral cancer.
Essentially, instead of recurrent invasive biopsies to monitor the growth rate of the cancerous tumour and the efficacy of treatment, oral cancer patients will just need to spit a couple of times into a tube, according to the research published in Switzerland-based International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Dr Tanavde, Associate Professor, Biological and Life Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University, led the team in collaboration with senior oncologists Dr Kaustubh Patel and Dr Dushyant Mandlik of the HCG Cancer Centre.
According to Dr Tanavde, the treatment of oral cancer has several challenges.
"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.
Oral cancer is the second largest cancer in India, with lip/oral cavity cancers accounting for 10.3 per cent of new cases and 8.8 per cent of deaths, according to a report published by the International Agency for Research in Cancer, an intergovernmental agency part of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Saliva is a valuable body fluid for liquid biopsies. Still, the challenge of isolating good-quality RNA from saliva has hindered previous efforts to use saliva for liquid biopsy.
Salivary exosomal miRNAs as biomarkers facilitate repeated sampling, real-time disease monitoring, and assessment of therapeutic response.
This study has identified a single salivary exosomal miRNA prognosticator that will aid in improved patient outcomes using a liquid biopsy approach.