AACR: Mouth Rinse Test Detects Early Head-and-Neck Cancers

April 16, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- An investigational oral rinse assay detected the tumor marker CD44 in both early-stage and pre-cancerous head-and-neck lesions, researchers reported here.

LOS ANGELES, April 16 -- An investigational oral rinse assay detected the tumor marker CD44 in both early-stage and pre-cancerous head-and-neck lesions, researchers reported here.

If the findings are confirmed in larger trials, the oral rinse test could facilitate early diagnosis of head-and-neck squamous-cell carcinoma and pre-cancerous lesions, said Elizabeth J. Franzmann, M.D., of the University of Miami's cancer center.

Moreover, the test is so simple that it could be adopted easily for settings such as community centers and churches, she said at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting here.

In her study, the mean salivary CD44 level was 24.4 32.0 ng/mL for the head-and-neck cancer patients versus 9.9 16.1 ng/mL for patients with benign disease (P

She said that in a pilot study a subset of 11 head-and-neck cancer patients and 11 controls who had low CD44 levels, the investigators examined promoter hypermethylation and determined that CD44 promoter hypermethylation was present in nine of 11 patients but was not present in any controls.

Additionally, half of the patients without invasive disease had elevated CD44 levels that were associated with the presence of dysplasia or imminent malignant progression. "Two patients with elevated CD44-one who had dysplasia and another who had no clinical finding at all-went on to develop head and neck cancer within two years," she said.

She pointed out that the studies are preliminary and further confirmatory studies are ongoing.