An AI-based saliva test capable of detecting tumors has just been made available in the USA. CancerDetect, approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a "breakthrough device," can detect early symptoms of oral and throat cancer with more than 90 percent accuracy.
These are cancers that go undiagnosed due to a lack of effective diagnostic tools, often until they reach an advanced stage, resulting in low survival rates.
A saliva test to save many lives
In a previous study researchers Maria Soledad Sosa e Julio A. Aguirre-Ghiso had discovered that the ability of cancer cells to remain dormant is controlled by a protein called NR2F1. Levels of NR2F1 are low in primary tumors, high in resting cells, and then decline as the tumor cells begin to proliferate again, forming recurrent or metastatic tumors.
"We believe that NR2F1 activation has the clinical potential to induce tumor cell quiescence and prevent recurrence and metastasis," explains Aguirre-Ghiso.
The new study and the arrival of a saliva test
In the new study, Sosa and Aguirre-Ghiso's team identified a drug, C26, that activates NR2F1 through computer screening. And he found that when patients' cells were treated with this drug, they stopped proliferating (and increased NR2F1 levels).
CancerDetect, the resulting product, offers unprecedented accuracy for diagnoses early and prevention of cancer, being the only saliva test of its type to have a 95% specificity it's a 90% sensitivity.
Important, because only 28% of patients receive an early diagnosis. Early diagnosis directly increases the 5-year survival rate for patients with oral cancer, from 50% to 84%. "Despite all the innovations in the healthcare landscape, oral and throat cancer has remained a life-threatening disease with few options for early detection," he says Naveen Jain, founder and CEO of Viome Life Sciences, the manufacturer.
Studies to make it happen
To develop this accurate diagnostic tool, Viome researchers collected saliva samples from people aged 50 and older or adults who had a history of tobacco use.
They are the two main risk factors for oral and throat cancer. For each sample they then extracted genetic material from bacteria, fungi and skin cells.
CancerDetect's AI was trained on a data set from 945 samples. 80 of these were from people with oral cancer and 12 from people with throat cancer. One of the main benefits of machine learning is that the more data it collects, the more accurate the tool becomes.
Up to approval and sale now possible.
Purchase the test online
People at risk of developing oral or throat cancer can now order the test online from Viome and receive results in as little as two weeks. A telehealth worker reviews the information provided by the client: if the test is positive, a licensed healthcare provider will contact the client to provide additional information. The use is simple: to give you an idea, here are the instructions released on Youtube by the company.
The next step? Get clearance from the FDA which would allow for the test to be covered by health insurance companies.
A big step forward to save many lives.