Clinical manifestations of pancreatic cancer often do not occur until the cancer has undergone metastasis, resulting in a very low survival rate. In this study, we investigated whether salivary bacterial profiles might provide useful biomarkers for early detection of pancreatic cancer. Using high-throughput sequencing of bacterial small subunit ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) gene, we characterized the salivary microbiota of patients with pancreatic cancer and compared them to healthy patients and patients with other diseases, including pancreatic disease, non-pancreatic digestive disease/cancer and non-digestive disease/cancer. A total of 146 patients were enrolled at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center where saliva and demographic data were collected from each patient. Of these, we analyzed the salivary microbiome of 108 patients: 8 had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, 78 with other diseases and 22 were classified as non-diseased (healthy) controls. Bacterial 16S rRNA sequences were amplified directly from salivary DNA extractions and subjected to high-throughput sequencing (HTS). Several bacterial genera differed in abundance in patients with pancreatic cancer. We found a significantly higher ratio of Leptotrichia to Porphyromonas in the saliva of patients with pancreatic cancer than in the saliva of healthy patients or those with other disease (Kruskal-Wallis Test; P < 0.001). Leptotrichia abundances were confirmed using real-time qPCR with Leptotrichia specific primers. Similar to previous studies, we found lower relative abundances of Neisseria and Aggregatibacter in the saliva of pancreatic cancer patients, though these results were not significant at the P < 0.05 level (K-W Test; P = 0.07 and P = 0.09 respectively). However, the relative abundances of other previously identified bacterial biomarkers, e.g., Streptococcus mitis and Granulicatella adiacens, were not significantly different in the saliva of pancreatic cancer patients. Overall, this study supports the hypothesis that bacteria abundance profiles in saliva are useful biomarkers for pancreatic cancer though much larger patient studies are needed to verify their predictive utility.
Keywords: 16S rRNA; Early detection biomarker; High-throughput sequencing; Pancreatic cancer; Salivary microbiome.