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Pancreatic cancer urine test shows potential

Posted by: Research 3 August 2015

A story has been widely reported in the media today, such as by the BBC, about a simple urine test that could detect pancreatic cancer much earlier. We’ve highlighted a few key points below.

The research was carried out by scientists at Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary, University of London and funded by Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. The team looked at nearly 500 urine samples, with just under 200 samples being from patients with pancreatic cancer, 92 samples from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 samples from healthy people. The rest of the samples were made up of patients with benign and cancerous liver and gall bladder conditions. 

Three proteins (LYVE-1, REG1A and TFF1) out of 1,500 found in the urine samples, showed much higher levels in pancreatic cancer patients. This means it provides what is known as a ‘protein signature’ which is only found in people with the disease and can be detected at an early stage, therefore meaning it could act as an early diagnostic tool. The same three proteins were found in those with pancreatitis, but in much lower levels, so another positive find is that scientists were able to tell them apart, which is often very hard to do.

Leanne Reynolds, Head of Research, Pancreatic Cancer UK, comments, “This is exciting news and any research looking into ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier is really positive. This could potentially lead to a non-invasive screening test for the disease, which would be very good news for patients if it leads to more people being diagnosed at a stage when treatment is possible.

“However, we are a long way off a urine test being widely available to diagnose pancreatic cancer, and that is why we need more research to determine whether this could be turned into a screening test for the disease. Pancreatic cancer urgently needs more research investment, because it has the lowest survival rate of all the 21 common cancers, with just four per cent of people living for five years or more after diagnosis, and survival rates have improved very little since the early 1970s.”

We shall certainly be keeping an eye on progress regarding this research and shall keep you updated.

The study was published in Clinical Cancer Research today.