Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer through a Non-invasive, Inexpensive Salivary Test




With just 5% survival rates, Pancreatic Cancer continues to be one of the most lethal cancers in the world. In this cancer, significant upregulation of the polyamine called spermine, in the patient’s saliva, is observed and can be attested as a potential biomarker. Our aim was to design a low- cost, strip-based assay scrutinizing spermine as a biomarker- for the early detection of Pancreatic cancer through saliva. The strip consists of 40nm carboxyl gold to show a color band at the control line when the target spermine present in the saliva binds with the anti-spermine gold-conjugated antibody & is detected by the secondary antibody. This test is also aided with a smart web-application that analyses a person’s demographic, dietary & medical data to predict the associative cumulative risk for the incidence of Pancreatic Cancer. A cohort study was conducted to validate this strip which included subjects who were freshly diagnosed with various stages of PC as well as healthy controls from three local hospitals. The strip was tested against their saliva samples; The final batch of strips portrayed an accuracy of 81% for Pancreatic Cancer patients & 83.33% for controls. The main advantage of this new type of detection scheme is that it is a non-invasive and affordable test that could easily be conducted by people at home regularly so that the early onset of this cancer could be detected efficiently.

Introduction & Background

Pancreatic Cancer is one of the most life-threatening cancers in the world. It takes away lives of around 300,000 people worldwide. Currently, there’s an urgent need for the early detection of this disease to increase the survival rates of this deadly cancer.
Generally, it is diagnosed using:

  • Scans like PET, CT or MRI.

  • Biopsy or,

  • CA19-9 Blood Test

But according to American College of Radiology, no imaging exams should be done unless there is a clear medical benefit, also these scans are too expensive, which is not viable for a normal person to regularly take these scans. Biopsies on the other hand, often lead to confirmatory diagnosis, but a doctor usually recommends a biopsy after the patient has presented with almost all signs for a tumor. As it is an Invasive procedure, a patient can’t take biopsy tests for general screening. Coming to the CA19-9 blood test, it has a poor specificity & sensitivity of just 65-70%, hence cannot be used as a screening tool for the general population.

Proposed Solution

Spermine as a potential Bio-marker

According to a recent study, it was found that an increase of poly-amine concentration in bio-fluids correlates with increased cell proliferation and tumorigenesis. In Carcinomas like that of the pancreas, significant up-regulation of the 4 different poly-amines were found to have significant changes in salivary concentrations of Pancreatic Cancer vs Non-pancreatic Cancer patients

  • Spermine

  • N1 Acetylspermine

  • N1 Acetylspermidine

  • 2-amino-butanoate

Hence, Spermine was endorsed as a marker for Pancreatic Cancer.

We have designed a novel strip based assay to analyze the concentration of Spermine Protein through saliva. By the presence of 40nm carboxyl gold, a conjugate, it shows a color change at the control line, when target spermine present in the saliva binds with Anti-spermine gold-conjugated antibody & is detected by the Secondary detector probe.


Where our product differs in the following points (Novelty):

  • Non-Invasive: Our product is completely non invasive and only requires saliva as input bio-fluid as opposed to current methods being either partially or completely invasive. 

  • Simplicity: It's a simple colorimetric test that can be read through the naked eye. It makes the test completely point of care and feasible for a layman to conduct it at home.

  • Low cost:  With manufacturing cost of a unit being as low as 40 cents (~30 INR), this is 1000  times cheaper than gold standard MRI scans or 90 times cheaper than the gold standard CA19-9 ELISA Blood Test(Specifically for pancreatic cancer)

Awards & Recognitions

  1. Bal Shakti Puraskar 2020, Awarded by the Honorable President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind at  Rashtrapati Bhavan.

  2. Finalist, Regeneron ISEF 2020 (World’s Biggest High School Research Fair),  Anaheim, USA.

  3. Regional Finalist, Google Science Fair 2019. (Top 100 Exhibits from all around the world) of Google Science Fair 2018, World’s One of The Biggest Annual Science & Engineering Fair for High School Students.

  4. Qualified as 2020 Global Teen Leaders.

  5. Gold Medal, Genius Olympiad 2019, USA.

  6. Global Finalist, Diamond Challenge.

  7. Selected for Spark Teen Accelerator. (Top 4 teams in the world).   ​

  8. Gold Medal in CSIR (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) Innovation Award for School Children 2019. 

  9. Gold Medal in the category of Chemistry at Indian Science and Engineering Fair 2019.

  10. First Position at Tech-Expo, conducted by Techniche 2019, IIT Guwahati.

  11. First Position at Vision:2030 IDEATE Challenge, conducted by Techfest 2018.