A team at the Chang Gung Molecular Medicine Research Center has developed a reagent that can be used to screen for oral cancer in 20 minutes using saliva.
The team, led by Yu Jau-song (余兆松), a professor at the center, said the reagent, if it passes clinical trials, would allow doctors to overcome a bottleneck in the cancer screening process, and is not limited to use with a single specimen.
The finding was the result of cooperation between the center and private industry, which invested NT$320 million (US$10.5 million at the current exchange rate) in the project, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said yesterday.
Chen was speaking at the ministry’s presentation at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei to announce successful projects funded by the Academia-Industry Research Alliance initiative.
The Chang Gung team cooperated with the National Applied Research Laboratories to turn the research into a finished product that can be used by hospitals, Chen said.
The number of people diagnosed with oral cancer in Taiwan rises by 5,000 annually, and Taiwanese men are the highest demographic worldwide for the oral cancer incidence rate, Yu said.
The disease is the No. 4 cause of death among Taiwanese men, he added.
Screening for the condition is primarily done through visually matching specimens with pathologies, Yu said.
However, since tumorous growths can undergo up to 20 types of mutation before being detected as oral cancer, relying on a doctor’s subjective judgement and a singular specimen has yielded only a 3 to 4 percent success rate in early detection, Yu added.
The research was motivated by a lack of biological signs used to assist in screening for oral cancer, he said.
The reagent can be used for early stage screening, for predicting transformations and for follow-up monitoring, he added.
Yu said he cooperated with Canadian academics 10 years ago to develop the first synchronous comparative quantitative mass spectrometry techniques used in Taiwan, adding that the technique allowed comparison of sample quality without the use of antibodies.
Using the technique, the team was able to find biological signs of cancer through comparing hundreds of samples, he said.
This was the basis of his team’s research into a reagent, he added.
Yu said he hoped the reagent would be ready for clinical trials next year.
He hoped to look at exploring methods of screening for other types of cancer, Yu added.
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