Cutting-edge Test Detects Cancer Cells in Saliva

In 2008, Pennsylvania doctors, Neil Gottehrer, DDS, and David T.W. Wong, DMD, DMSc, began collaborating on a project to develop a cutting-edge test that would analyze molecular biomarkers in saliva to detect oral cancer.  Using Gottehrer's 38 years of experience as a dentist and  Wong's pioneering research in salivary diagnostics, the two have successfully changed the way doctors, dentists and hygienists screen for oral cancer.

In an interview with, PeriRx co-founder and cardiologist, Dr. Jack Martin explained that, unlike fluorescence-based imaging technologies, this molecular marker test provides objective results without leaving subjective decisions to the dentists.

"The other tests require a lot of judgement by the practitioner about the color of lesions," Dr. Martin said. "Our test produces a quantitative result with test scores that helps decide who needs to have a lesion biopsied right away because of the high chance of malignancy versus lesions that just need to be watched. So you're not doing a lot of unnecessary biopsies on people who don't need it."

Head and neck squamous cell cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide. When detected early, the survival rate is about 90%, but most U.S. cases are not discovered until stage 3, when the survival rate drops to about 43%.

The PeriRx test has already been approved for sale in the European Union, and is in the early stages of clinical trials in the United States. The trials are slated to end next September, with a U.S. launch following in January 2014.

We often reiterate that dentists are on the front line of defense against oral, head and neck cancer. One of our main goals at the Joan's Foundation is to educate the dental community and provide them with the knowledge and resources to save smiles, save lives and catch oral cancers before they become life-threatening. Innovations in oral health screening, like PeriRx, help make the obsolescence of these types of cancers possible.

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