New York, April 17 (IANS) Researchers have revealed that a blood test may be able to help doctors detect the most common form of pancreatic cancer in its early stages. The test could also accurately stage a patient’s disease and guide doctors to appropriate treatment.
The study, published in the Clinical Cancer Research, found the test – known as a liquid biopsy – was more accurate at detecting disease in a blinded study than any other known biomarker alone, and was also more accurate at staging disease than imaging is capable of alone.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer deaths. One of the biggest challenges is catching the disease before it has progressed or spread. If the disease is caught early, patients may be candidates for surgery to remove cancer, which can be curative.
For patients whose disease has spread, there are currently no curative treatment options. “Right now, the majority of patients who are diagnosed already have metastatic disease, so there is a critical need for a test that can not only detect the disease earlier but also accurately tell us who might be at a point where we can direct them to potentially curative treatment,” said the study’s co-senior author Erica L Carpenter from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.
Researchers in this study developed a blood test to screen for a panel of biomarkers instead of just one biomarker on its own. These markers include carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9) and KRAS mutational burden, which are known to be associated with PDAC. In a blinded test group of 47 patients (20 with PDAC, 27 who were cancer-free), the test was 92 per cent accurate in its ability to detect disease, which outperforms the best-known biomarker, CA19-9 (89 per cent), alone.
The researchers then used samples from the 25 patients whose imaging showed did not have metastatic disease. The test was 84 per cent accurate in determining disease staging, which is significantly higher than imaging alone (64 per cent).
While the test still needs to be validated in a larger cohort, researchers said they are excited by the promise of what it could potentially mean for a patient population in need of this kind of advancement.