Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee have identified three proteins found in saliva that can serve as potential biomarkers for early detection of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a type of breast cancer that doesn’t respond to hormone therapies and often requires surgery.
The researchers said that around 10-15% of the 1.6 lakh cases of breast cancer registered in India each year are TNBC. It is the most aggressive form of breast cancer and doesn’t respond to hormonal treatments, requiring chemotherapy. But even after successful treatment, it can recur.
The novel diagnostic method could replace current methods for detecting TNBC, which includes biopsies and radiological tests. Apart from being invasive, today’s techniques are only used after symptoms of the condition show up.
“There have been many efforts in the past decades to identify biomarkers of metastatic TNBC, but there have not been any that have reached practical application,” said Dr Kiran Ambatipudi, an associate professor in the department of biosciences and bioengineering at IIT Roorkee who led the team.
They based their research on impaired salivary gland function of people with breast cancer, finding that the composition of proteins in saliva was also altered. They also developed a process for using these proteins as biomarkers from saliva and published their findings in the Journal of Proteomics.
“The research findings could potentially help in early diagnosis and treatment. This will improve the quality of life of such patients,” said Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director of IIT Roorkee, in a statement.
The IIT Roorkee team collected saliva samples from healthy individuals and those diagnosed with TNBC. They noticed differences in the amounts of three salivary proteins between healthy individuals and those with cancer.
With further study, they isolated five peptides, the building blocks of proteins, that were different between individuals with TNBC and those without. The presence of these peptides they said could identify an individual as positive for TNBC with an accuracy of 80%.
“If appropriately validated on larger patient cohorts, the discovered peptide markers could become a powerful handle for breast cancer diagnosis in the future,” added Dr Ambatipudi.