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Can protein profiling enable future screening of newly diagnosed diabetics for pancreatic cancer?

Recipient: Dr William Greenhalf and Dr Eithne Costello

Host Institution: University of Liverpool

Title: Can protein profiling enable future screening of newly diagnosed diabetics for pancreatic cancer?

Type of award: 2013 Research Innovation Fund

Funding: £68,098

Approximately 40% of pancreatic cancer (PDAC) patients have diabetes. This has led researchers to ask whether diabetes promotes the development of PDAC, or whether PDAC causes diabetes. By following up newly-diagnosed type II diabetics, researchers found that around 1% are diagnosed with PDAC within three years of the diagnosis of diabetes. Further analysis suggested that these individuals had early-stage PDAC at the time they are diagnosed with diabetes. Screening every newly-diagnosed type II diabetic (numbering 250,000/annum in UK) for PDAC over 3-5 years would be prohibitively costly and misdiagnosis would lead to dreadful consequences. Fortunately, cancer-associated diabetes is different from common type II diabetes, suggesting that diabetes related factors found in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients may differ from those found in other type II diabetics. Therefore, it may be possible to select for the newly-diagnosed diabetics most likely to have cancer. We have analysed blood proteins in patients with PDAC, benign pancreatic diseases, healthy subjects and a unique set of samples taken up to 4 years prior to diagnosis of PDAC. We found changes in diabetes-related proteins in both pre- and post-cancer diagnosis samples versus controls and we propose to evaluate promising candidates with the aim of informing future proposals for PDAC screening using patients with new-onset diabetes.