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The prospect of having a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer, where cases often aren’t diagnosed until the very late stages meaning survival rates are often very low, is a new hope for pancreatic cancer patients.
The American Journal of Gastroenterology has recently published a study reporting that the blood in pancreatic cancer patients carries several biomarkers which could be used to detect the condition in its earlier stages using specific diagnostic tests.
These biomarkers are known as microRNAs – small molecules which help regulate gene expression in normal and cancerous cells. In another recent study, scientists have found that higher blood levels of branched-chain amino acids could also signify the presence of pancreatic cancer. Both of these biomarkers could form the basis of a diagnostic or predictive blood test for the disease.
Based on the results of both studies, a team of scientists now seek to create a blood test in order to screen individuals who are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer by identifying the biomarkers within their blood.
Dr Murray Korc, the professor of cancer research at the Indiana University School of Medicine said that the new teams are aiming to look at how useful a panel of biological markers such as the amino acids would be for the early diagnosis of this cancer. Based on their findings, the test could be useful to differentiate between pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis, as well as detecting pancreatic cancer in patients presenting symptoms before the disease has advanced very far.
Seeing as around nine thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, having a diagnostic test for those more predisposed to developing the disease is likely to save a significant amount of lives.