Despite being relatively easy to remove with surgery, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly cancers in the U.S.; by the time the cancer is diagnosed in 80 percent of cases, surgery is no longer an option. A new study has identified two proteins that could help doctors diagnose pancreatic cancer faster and more accurately — a finding that could mean the difference between life and death for certain at-risk populations.
The blood-borne proteins helped to increase the predictive ability of current biomarker tests used to detect early-stage pancreatic cancer. This finding could be especially useful to diagnose the cancer in people who already face a greater risk due to either family history of the disease or because they have a known genetic mutation. At this point, the predictive test is not accurate enough to be used on the general public, but its promising results so far show the team is on the right path.
"Adding these two biomarkers provided statistically significant improvement for all early stage cancer versus healthy controls as well as other sub-cohorts when used with the current gold standard biomarker, CA 19-9," said Ann Killary in a recent statement on Science Daily. "Our goal is to identify more patients at those earlier, respectable stages, when treatment could lead to a five year survival rate of 30 percent or more, depending on stage."
Pancreatic cancer is often symptomless, one of the major reasons why it can stay undiagnosed for so long. If patients do have symptoms, they can often be minor and mistaken for something less serious. For example, according to WebMD, some of the most common symptoms of pancreatic cancer include upper abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, and blood clots.
Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer is also the fourth leading cause of cancer-death in the U.S. and, according to the American Cancer Society, this cancer is responsible for about 43,090 deaths each year.
Of the two biomarkers, only one has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and even so, only for monitoring disease treatment, not actual diagnosis. Still, the team hope that further research will lead to better results, and ultimately allow these biomarkers to be used in disease diagnosis.
Source: Sen S, Balasenthil S, Killary A, et al. OUP accepted manuscript. Journal Of The National Cancer Institute. 2017