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New method can diagnose feared pancreatic cancer

Date:
March 21, 2014
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
Pancreatic cancer is often detected at a late stage, which results in poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Researchers have now developed a method that identifies the cancer’s visible precursors with 97% certainty. The method, which is expected to aid in the early discovery of the cancer as well as minimize the risk of unnecessary surgery, may be introduced in patient care within five years.

Pancreatic cancer is often detected at a late stage, which results in poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Researchers at The University od Gothenburg, Sweden, have now developed a method which identifies the cancer's visible precursors with 97% certainty. The method, which is expected to aid in the early discovery of the cancer as well as minimize the risk of unnecessary surgery, may be introduced in patient care within five years.

The poor prognosis for pancreatic cancer, where only 5 percent of the patients survive five years after the diagnosis, is due to the fact that the tumors often develop unnoticed, and rarely cause symptoms until they have spread to other organs. Recent studies, however, have shown that fluid-filled compartments in the pancreas, called cysts, may be precursors of the cancer.

Hard to identify harmful cysts

Cysts in the pancreas, which are found in every 10th person above the age of 70, and are also common in younger people, can be discovered with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The problem is that imaging alone cannot determine which cysts are at risk for developing into cancer. Therefore, it often becomes necessary to puncture the cyst and look for tumor markers in the cyst fluid but not even these analyses are reliable.

Removing the cyst by surgery, with the knowledge that it may turn out to be completely benign, is also problematic since the operation is extensive, with considerable risks for the patient.

97 percent certainty

Researchers at The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, have now developed a method which can predict with 97 percent certainty which pancreatic cysts constitute precursors to cancer. With this method, which detects the presence of mucus protein, mucins, in the cystic fluid, the researchers were able to reach the correct diagnosis in 77 of 79 cysts that were examined.

"This is an exceptionally good result for a diagnostic test, and we are very hopeful that the method will enable more instances of early discovery of pancreatic cancer, at a stage when the cancer can be treated or prevented. This approach may also minimize the risk of unnecessary operations on non-malignant cysts," said Karolina Jabbar, PhD student at The Sahlgrenska Academy and physician at The Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Helps operation decisions

The researchers have also tested the new method in order to analyze existing tumors and, with about 90 percent certainty, have been able to determine which tumors have already developed into cancers. This means that the method could also be used to determine which patients require immediate surgery, and when it is instead possible to wait and monitor the development of the cyst.

The method which has been used in the study is called proteomics, which means the analysis of the protein content of a tissue or fluid with the help of mass spectrometry . This method has thus far been used in research. But Professor Gunnar C. Hansson who, together with senior physician and Assistant Professor Riadh Sadik, initiated the study, is convinced that the proteomics will soon be introduced in health care.

"The technique has been developed, and we can now measure biomarkers both quickly and exactly. Moreover, the method requires minimal biomaterial, in this case 25 times less cyst fluid than conventional tumor marker analyses. I am certain that within five years the mass spectrometers will have moved into the hospital corridors," he said.

The article has been published in the cancer journal, Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. The original article was written by Krister Svahn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. S. Jabbar, C. Verbeke, A. G. Hyltander, H. Sjovall, G. C. Hansson, R. Sadik. Proteomic Mucin Profiling for the Identification of Cystic Precursors of Pancreatic Cancer. JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2014; 106 (2): djt439 DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djt439

Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "New method can diagnose feared pancreatic cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140321101603.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2014, March 21). New method can diagnose feared pancreatic cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140321101603.htm
University of Gothenburg. "New method can diagnose feared pancreatic cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140321101603.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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