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Study Reports Mouth Bacteria can Detect Pancreatic Cancer

Update Date: May 19, 2014 11:56 AM EDT

According to a new study, analyzing the bacteria content in people's mouths could potentially help detect pancreatic cancer. The researchers reported that the bacteria profile in a cancer patient's saliva is different from the profile in non-cancer patients.

"Our studies suggest that ratios of particular types of bacteria found in saliva may be indicative of pancreatic cancer," said Pedro Torres of San Diego State University reported in the press release.

For this study, Torres and his team recruited 131 patients made up of 63 females and 68 males who were all being treated at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Moores Cancer Center. 14 people had pancreatic cancer, 13 had pancreatic disease, 22 had other types of cancer and 10 did not have any illnesses. The researchers examined the bacteria diversity in the patients' saliva.

"Our results suggest the presence of a consistently distinct microbial profile for pancreatic cancer," stated Torres. "We may be able to detect pancreatic cancer at its early stages by taking individuals' saliva and looking at the ratios of these bacteria."

The researchers found that the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had elevated levels of two oral bacteria called Leptotrichia and Campylobacter and reduced levels of Streptococcus, Treponema and Veillonella.

In the United States, roughly 40,000 people die from pancreatic adenocarcinoma every year, which makes it the fourth leading cause of death tied to cancer. Patients who get diagnosed with the early stages of pancreatic cancer have a 21.5 percent five-year survival rate. According to Torres, the symptoms of pancreatic cancer do not show up until the cancer had developed to the point when it is no longer treatable. The team hopes that the study's findings can help improve detection and survival rates.

The study was presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting.

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