Is a Simple Test for Early Pancreatic Cancer Possible?

logo1267406_mdA new study from Johns Hopkins University published in Clinical Cancer Research concluded that a simple blood test based upon detecting tiny epigenetic alterations may reveal the earliest possible signs of pancreatic cancer. If confirmed, the results of this small preliminary study could be an important step in reducing mortality from this nearly always fatal cancer that has an overall five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent and has seen few improvements in survival over the last three decades. The researchers said “While far from perfect, we think we have found an early detection marker for pancreatic cancer that may allow us to locate and attack the disease at a much earlier stage than we usually do.”

In their study, the researchers found two genes, BNC1 and ADAMTS1. that were detected together in 81 percent of the blood samples from 42 people with early stage pancreatic cancer, but not in people without the disease or in patients with a history of pancreatitis that is a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. By way of contrast the researchers pointed out the the PSA test only picks up 20 percent of prostate cancers. The researchers hope that further research will refine the test. possibly by adding another gene or two, in order to go over 90 percent in both sensitivity and specificity. The researchers see the test as useful for specific population such as those at risk of developing the disease (those with a family history, a previous case of pancreatiitis, long term smokers or people with the BRCA gene mutation lijked to breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers) and not for the general public. Those identified with BNC1 and ADAMTS1 in their blood would need further testingto locate the actual cancer such as CT scans and endoscopic  ultrasound.

 

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