By the time a person is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it may already be too late to save their life. Detection methods are only able to identify the tumour when it’s inoperable as only 15% of pancreatic cancer sufferers are eligible for potential life-saving surgery.
New research from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, has found a means whereby a much earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer could be made, which would greatly increase the chances of survival for patients.
Dr Raghu Kalluri, chair of Cancer Biology, explained: “Studies comparing stage of disease with outcome following surgery suggest that death rates for pancreatic cancer would be reduced if the disease were diagnosed at an earlier stage. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for informative early detection of pancreatic cancer and in designing potential curative surgical options.”
The method for screening involved a protein released by cancer cells into the bloodstream, called glypican-1 (GPDC1). This is released in small virus-sized particles called exomes. The team were able to devise a blood test that looked specifically for these exomes. Identifying exomes in samples would, thus, strongly suggest cancer.
Dr Kalluri commented: “GPC1 + crExos were detected in small amounts of serum from about 250 patients with pancreatic cancer with absolute specificity and sensitivity, importantly distinguishing patients with chronic pancreatitis from those with early and late stage pancreatic cancer.
“Our study suggests the potential for GPC1 + crExos as a detection and monitoring tool for pancreatic cancer in combination with imaging, with an emphasis on its application in early detection.”