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Can multiplex deep sequencing of circulating free DNA detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage?

Recipient: Professor Jacqueline Shaw

Host Institution: University of Leicester

Title: Can multiplex deep sequencing of circulating free DNA detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage?

Type of award: Research Innovation Fund 2013

Funding: £72,306

All cancers carry mutations in the tumour cells and some of these occur at a very early stage, even before the primary tumour is fully developed. DNA from these transformed cells is shed into the bloodstream and can be purified from a small blood sample. The detection of circulating cancer markers in blood could provide a simple approach to earlier detection of pancreatic cancer, an idea we wish to test in this project. We will analyse blood samples from pancreatic cancer patients, patients with chronic pancreatitis, a known risk factor for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC), and healthy controls for the mutations which are known to be present in cancer-causing genes in pancreatic cancer. The results can provide a non-invasive "fingerprint" of what is happening in the target tissue, in this case the pancreas, and the hope is that such changes can be detected early enough to intervene to prevent progression of precancerous lesions, or allow the diagnosis and treatment of PDAC at a much earlier stage. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide proof of principle that deep sequencing of DNA circulating in blood plasma can detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage.