Zachy Hennessey
June 17

Spit could be the key to detecting cancer, thanks to a new collaboration between Salignostics, a Jerusalem-based startup developing rapid saliva diagnostic tests, and the ARC Innovation Center at Sheba Medical Center.

The collaboration aims to develop a pioneering test for the early detection of oral cavity cancer using saliva samples.

Every year, over 400,000 individuals worldwide receive a diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer, with a sobering average five-year survival rate of only 50 percent post-diagnosis. There’s no efficient diagnostic tool to detect this cancer in its nascent stages. Typically, diagnosis occurs after the disease has already metastasized, through physical examination and tissue biopsy.

The new test promises to be among the world’s first to enable the early detection of oral cavity cancer, and will also come in handy in diagnosing any cancer type based on saliva samples.

Because spit comes into direct contact with infected tissue, it’s very likely to carry disease markers. Finding these markers early can significantly increase the chances of discovering tumors at a less advanced stage.

Salignostics’ saliva processing platform is the linchpin of the new test, a technology built on decades of scientific research. The platform has already been used to develop and market several rapid tests, including home COVID-19 tests and Salistick, the world’s first saliva-based pregnancy test.

Saliva-based cancer testing on its way
Salignostics’ founding team in Jerusalem. Photo by Osnat Krasnansky

Dr. Guy Krief, cofounder and deputy CEO of Salignostics, emphasized the transformative nature of the collaboration.

“Early detection may increase the chance of extending the lives of oral cavity cancer patients and recovery. Additionally, if the development is successful, the path will be opened to diagnose additional types of cancer based on saliva samples, which may prolong and save many lives.”

Krief also noted that this partnership marks a strategic shift for Salignostics.

“Until now, we have focused on developing and marketing rapid tests for the private sector and home use,” he said. “Now, through Sheba, we are starting to implement another business model — Salignostics Inside — within which our technology will be integrated into a hospital’s medical devices for professional use.”

Leading the research and development efforts at Sheba are the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Institute under Dr. Alex Dobrian, the Ear, Nose, and Throat Department led by Dr. Eran Alon, and the Institute of Pathology headed by Prof. Iris Barshak, with support from Prof. Gidi Rechavi, director of the Sheba Cancer Research Center.

Following the proof-of-concept phase, the team plans to develop saliva-based tests for early detection of head and neck cancers.

The potential coming out of the collaboration “between Sheba’s leading head and neck team and Salignostics’ versatile and groundbreaking technology,” said Dobrian, “is tremendous and may have a very significant impact on the ability of these complex patients to recover.”

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