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Endoscope With an Oxygen Sensor Easily Detects Pancreatic Cancer

Update Date: Jun 07, 2014 09:57 PM EDT

An optical blood oxygen sensor attached to an endoscope is able to identify pancreatic cancer in patients through a simple endoscopic procedure, according to researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida. 

The newly devised device acts like the well-known clothespin-type finger clip used to measure blood oxygen in patients . The device has a sensitivity of 92 percent and a specificity of 86 percent. That means, of 100 patients with pancreatic cancer, this sensor would detect 92 of them, based on the findings. And of 100 patients who don't have pancreatic cancer, the test would correctly identify them 86 percent of the time, the press release added. 

"Although this is a small pilot study, the outcome is very promising. There is no test now available that can accurately identify pancreatic cancer at an early stage, short of removing some of the organ," said the study's senior investigator and gastroenterologist Michael Wallace, M.D., M.P.H., in the press release. "We need new ways to detect pancreatic cancer effectively, and simply, as early as possible."

As of now, more than 90 percent of pancreatic cancers are discovered at an advanced metastatic stage when there are no effective therapy available. 

Although pancreatic cancer ranks 10th in occurrence, it is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. 

"We are now confirming our findings in a much larger study, involving institutions in the U.S. and in Europe," Dr. Wallace added. 

"What is quite unusual is that we were trying to sense changes that are not in the tumor itself but are in the nearby, normal-appearing tissues," he said. "It relies on a principle, now being increasingly acknowledged, called a cancer field effect. Instead of looking for the needle in the haystack, we now look at the haystack to see how it is different when there's a needle inside."

"The general concept is that cancers cause surrounding tissue to undergo changes in the flow of oxygen that are detectable, not visually or even under the microscope, but by this kind of sensor," Dr. Wallace concluded in the press release.

The study has been published in the GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. 

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