a test for early detection
With cancer, catching it early greatly increases the chance of a good outcome. Unfortunately, head and neck cancers are often well advanced before making their presence felt, which can make their treatment more complicated and harder for the patient to go through. As my husband had no symptoms, it was down to luck and his awareness that his cancer was so detected early. He had two melanomas more than ten years ago, and as part of ongoing monitoring, the skin specialist always checks his neck glands. Reinhard has adopted this practice himself, and that’s how he found the tiny lump under his ear. When it hadn’t gone away in a couple of days, and if anything was larger, he was straight off to the doctor. The rest is history.
One cause of head and neck cancers, including my husband’s, is the human papilloma virus. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is very common in humans. In fact, there are over 200 viruses in the group. Most people have had a HPV infection that their body fought off without them even knowing, but persisting infections can develop into cancer.
Researchers at RBWH, led by Prof. Liz Kenny AO, (my husband’s radiation oncologist) have developed a simple, non-invasive test which can detect tiny amounts of the virus in saliva – fittingly named “The Spit Test”. If the virus level is high, or increases over subsequent tests, cancer could be present and further investigations are warranted. Though still in the trial stage, the test has already potentially saved one life. A volunteer was found to have increased levels of virus, but was otherwise totally asymptomatic. When his tonsils were removed, a tiny tumour, too small to show up using existing methods, was found.
This spit test will be invaluable, not just for very early detection, but also for ongoing monitoring of people like my husband who have had a viral head and neck cancer.
About $1 million is needed for the trial, and all donations made via the link on this website will go towards to funding the trial and ongoing work in this field.
In the photo – from left to right:
Dr Sarju Vasani, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, RBWH.
Professor Lizbeth Kenny AO, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Cancer Care Services, RBWH.
Mr John McFarlane, RBWH Foundation Board Member.
Professor Chamindie Punyadeera, Head, Saliva, & Liquid Biopsy Translational Laboratory.
Reinhard Krieger and Irene Krieger.
Ms Nadeyn Barbieri, Director Philanthropy and Development, RBWH Foundation.