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A new life-saving method of detecting and diagnosing pancreatic cancer has been researched and developed.
According to research which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Microbiology, analysing the bacteria in your mouth could help detect the deadly disease, which kills over 8,000 people in the UK each year. The new methods could help diagnose the disease whilst it’s still in its early stages.
Researchers from San Diego State University compared the salivary bacteria of 131 patients, 14 of whom had pancreatic cancer, 13 had pancreatic disease, 22 had other forms of cancer and 10 were free of disease. They found that the patients with pancreatic cancer had higher levels of leptotrichia and campylobacter, two types of salivary bacteria – whereas others with other forms of disease or who were healthy had much lower levels. The researchers believe that in the future, they may be able to find pancreatic cancer in its earliest stages by analysing individual patient’s saliva and looking at the ratios of these bacteria.
Although the researchers aren’t exactly sure what the correlation is between the salivary bacteria and the presence of pancreatic cancer, they think it may be due to the fact that both saliva and the pancreas produce amylase, an enzyme which helps the body turn starch into sugar for energy.
“Changes in the pancreatic amylase could be reflected in the salivary amylase,” says Pedro Torres, study researcher and microbiology graduate student at San Diego State University. “That would change the carbohydrates and the sugar in the mouth and impact the microbiome.”
Currently, patients diagnosed in the early stages of the disease have a 5-year survival rate of 21.5%, but symptoms for the disease don’t typically appear until the cancer has reached an untreatable stage, especially as the signs of pancreatic cancer can sometimes be misdiagnosed in younger patients.
These new findings could eventually lead to new tests for diagnosing pancreatic cancer early on in its development, meaning the patient is likely to receive treatment sooner and has an increased survival rate.