HPV-driven throat cancers are on the rise, surpassing cervical cancer as the most common cancer caused by HPV. With a newly invented saliva test, researchers could detect the presence of throat cancer earlier for more effective treatment.
The prototype test, developed by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, was tested on 600 cancer-free subjects. The test looks for the strain of the virus called HPV-16, which has been linked to cancer cell creation.
One subject, a 63-year-old male with no cancer symptoms, showed progressively increasing viral levels over the course of 36 months. This prompted researchers to refer him to an ear, nose, and throat surgeon who found a tiny asymptomatic tumor in his throat. The early detection gave the patient a significantly higher chance of cure.
HPV is thought to be the cause of 70 percent of all oropharyngeal cancers, but there is no early screening method available. Although further trials need to be completed before the test can be widely distributed, this discovery could be an efficient and low-cost tool for tracking high-risk patients and detecting dangerous cancers earlier.