The test is able to identify two-thirds of patients with pancreatic cancer at an early stage of the disease by measuring levels of a protein called PAM, researchers reported at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium recently held in San Francisco, in the United States.
At an early stage of the disease, pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect as it causes no symptoms until it has spread. This partially accounts for the poor prognosis of most people diagnosed with the illness, making an early detection tool critical.
The protein PAM4 is present in normal cells but is greatly elevated when cancer is present and it spills into the bloodstream.
When the researchers combined PAM4 with another test, CA19-9 which is already approved in the US to monitor pancreatic cancer during treatment, the combination showed even stronger results and correctly identified 85% of patients with pancreatic ductal adenomcarcinoma (PDAC), by far the most common form of pancreatic cancer.
“For providers of care for patients with pancreatic cancer, hampered by their inability to readily detect these cancers in some cases, especially in earlier stages, this shows tremendous promise that blood-based assay can add to our ability to diagnose pancreatic cancer at an earlier stage, thereby impacting patients lives,” Dr Morton S. Kahlenberg, a gastrointestinal cancers expert with the American Society of Clinical Oncology told HealthDay News.
The test had relatively few false positives, mistakenly identifying only 19% of benign pancreatic disease patients and 23% of chronic pancreatitis patients.
The tests did not appear to be helpful in finding other forms of pancreatic cancer, the researchers stressed.
Source: HealthDay News