Research published last week in the American Journal of Gastroenterology reveals that a simple blood test may provide a new opportunity for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center (IN, USA) demonstrated that a range of microRNAs are present at high levels in the blood of pancreatic cancer patients.
Lead investigator Murray Korc (Indiana University School of Medicine) commented: “This is a new finding that extends previous knowledge in this field, the key new feature here is that there is a panel of microRNAs that can be measured accurately in the plasma component of blood to determine if a patient has pancreatic cancer.”
The team discovered the presence of the microRNAs by studying plasma, bile and pancreatic juice that had been collected from 215 pancreatic cancer patients either immediately before or during an endoscopy. They found that heightened expression of miRNA-10b, -155, and -106b in plasma appears to be highly accurate in diagnosing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common type of pancreatic malignancy.
“It may be possible to use a blood test to screen individuals who are at high risk for developing pancreatic cancer,” Korc said. “We are planning to conduct such studies. It will be important to identify additional markers and to assess how useful a panel of such markers would be for the early diagnosis of this cancer. Based on our findings, this test could also be useful to differentiate between pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis.”
The identification of markers such as microRNAs in pancreatic cancer patients provides a potential opportunity for early diagnosis in a disease that is often difficult to detect. Development of early diagnosis techniques such as this could improve treatment for pancreatic cancer patients, where current treatments typically only extend a patient’s life by 6–16 weeks.