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New Test Could Help Detect Pancreatic Cancer Early

A new diagnostic test that uses a scientific method called metabolomic analysis could help detect pancreatic cancer early, and therefore, improve the prognosis of patients with the disease.

This new screening method is safe and easy, according to new research published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In the study, the investigators looked at the effectiveness of metabolomic analysis as a diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer. The novel technique was proven successful in the results.

Masaru Yoshida, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Metabolomics Research at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Kobe, Japan, explained:

"Although surgical resection can be a curative treatment for pancreatic cancer, more than 80 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer have a locally advanced or metastatic tumor that is unresectable at the time of detection. Conventional examinations using blood, imaging and endoscopy are not appropriate for pancreatic cancer screening and early detection, so a novel screening and diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer is urgently required."

The study involved patients with pancreatic cancer, patients with chronic pancreatitis, and healthy participants. The experts measured the levels of metabolites in their blood by using gas chromatography mass spectrometry.

Forty-three patients with pancreatic cancer and 42 healthy subjects were randomly assigned to a training set and 42 pancreatic cancer patients and 41 healthy participants to a validation set. All 23 chronic pancreatitis patients were included in the validation set.

According to an examination of the metabolomic data that came from the training set, levels of 18 metabolites were notably different in the pancreatic cancer patients' blood as opposed to the healthy individuals.

Further analysis caused the scientists to create a technique to predict a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer using evaluation of the levels of only four metabolites.

In the training set, the method showed 86% sensitivity and 88.1% specificity. In the validation set, which consisted of patients with chronic pancreatitis, the approach showed 71.4% sensitivity and 78.1% specificity.

Yoshida concluded:

"Our diagnostic approach using serum metabolomics possessed higher accuracy than conventional tumor markers, especially at detecting the patients with pancreatic cancer in the cohort that included the patients with chronic pancreatitis.

This novel diagnostic approach, which is safe and easy to apply as a screening method, is expected to improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer by detecting their cancers early, when still in a resectable and curable state."

Research from earlier this year showed that a drug called Abraxane is effective at improving overall survival among patients with pancreatic cancer when combined with chemotherapy.

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