A blood test for detecting pancreatic cancer, and distinguishing the disease from pancreatitis, could be on the horizon, thanks to results of exciting research in America. These findings could in turn lead to people with pancreatic cancer being diagnosed earlier and having more treatment options available to them. The research was published online this week in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Ye Hu and colleagues conducted a pilot study involving 48 healthy people, 48 patients with pancreatitis and 58 patients with stages one to three pancreatic cancer. The researchers found that the new blood test is more sensitive in detecting pancreatic cancer and more specific in correctly distinguishing this from pancreatitis, than the only current pancreatic cancer biomarker which is routinely used.
This most recent study suggests that this method could be relatively cheap and quick in achieving a diagnosis. If the test is shown to be very accurate in further studies, then it could be useful for screening in a larger number of high risk people.
Although the results need to be validated by carrying out a larger study, the test has the potential to improve the early detection, treatment and monitoring of pancreatic cancer.
Anna Jewell, Director of Operations at Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: “We urgently need to find new ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier, because 80 per cent of people with the disease are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when there are very few treatment options.
“This biomarker is exciting as it could lead us to a screening tool to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and also to distinguish the condition from pancreatitis. However, it is important to remember that any new screening tool would be several years away. We now need more research and for a larger study to be carried out to see if this blood test would be an effective early diagnosis tool for pancreatic cancer.
“Just five per cent of people with pancreatic cancer currently live for five years or more after diagnosis. That’s why it’s vital we explore every promising avenue which may lead us to a screening test, so more patients can be diagnosed earlier when they have more treatment options, and have the chance of spending longer with their families.”