Detecting Cancer at the Dentist's Office

8/24/2008 HOUSTON, Texas It wasn't long ago, Resa Ott's life was threatened by cancer.

"It takes the wind out of your sails and you don't want to die," Ott says.

Had a double mastectomy. Now she's cancer-free. But her story is not unusual ... one in eight women will battle breast cancer in her lifetime and the battle against this disease has become personal for Dr. Charles Streckfus.

"Cancer essentially wiped out my family," says Charles Streckfus, D.D.S., a professor of diagnostic services at the University of Texas in Houston. "My mother and father were killed back to back with cancer and left my sister orphaned, so it's somewhat of a grudge match."

That why he's developing a test to catch breast cancer that can be given at the dentist's office. His idea is as simple as chewing gum!

"It's very, very simple," Dr. Streckfus says. "It's extremely inexpensive. We get a gum base. You just chew it on a regular basis and then just spit it into a cup and after five minutes, we take the cup and determine what constituents are in it."

Saliva from the gum is applied to a gold plated chip. A laser will give immediate results. Researchers at the University of Texas identified 49 specific protein markers that provide non-invasive diagnosis of benign and malignant breast tumors.

"When an individual has cancer, a lot of the proteins are altered in saliva, so it could be a good bell weather instrument for presence of disease," Dr. Streckfus says.

He warns this test is an early detection device … not a replacement for mammograms, ultrasounds or biopsies. But any woman who's had breast cancer knows … the earlier it's detected … the better!

"I don't have mammograms any more, so for me to be proactive and chew a piece of gum and have someone say, 'You know, Resa, you're clear.' Oh, talk about peace of mind," Ott says.

The diagnostic device is now being developed to be installed in dentist's offices. This saliva test could also be used to detect ovarian, endometrial, cervical and head and neck cancer.

The University of Texas
Dental Branch at Houston
University of Texas Health and Science Center

For information on Dr. Streckfus' research, contact:
Cynthia Edwards


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