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Early Sign of Pancreatic Cancer Identified

Update Date: Sep 29, 2014 01:16 PM EDT
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Researchers have discovered a sign of the early development of pancreatic cancer - an upsurge in certain amino acids that occurs before the disease is diagnosed and symptoms appear - according to a new study. 

Although, the increase isn't the large enough to be the basis of a new test for early detection of the disease, the press release mentioned. However, the findings will help researchers better understand how pancreatic cancer affects the rest of the body.

"Most people with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) [by far the most common form of cancreatic cancer] are diagnosed after the disease has reached an advanced stage, and many die within a year of diagnosis," said Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, of Dana-Farber, co-senior author of the new study with Matthew Vander Heiden, MD, PhD, of MIT and Dana-Farber, in the press release. "Detecting the disease earlier in its development may improve our ability to treat it successfully. In this study, we asked whether PDAC produces metabolic changes - changes in the way the body uses energy and nutrients - that can be detected before the disease is diagnosed."

Researchers analyzed blood samples collected years earlier from 1,500 people, for more than 100 different metabolites. They then compared the results from participants who had gone on to develop pancreatic cancer and those who had not. 

"We found that higher levels of branched chain amino acids were present in people who went on to develop pancreatic cancer compared to those who did not develop the disease," Wolpin said.

Authors added that the findings of the study provide an important lead to scientists studying how pancreatic tumors interact with patients' normal tissue. "This work has the potential to spur progress in detecting pancreatic tumors earlier and identifying new treatment strategies for those with the disease," researchers remarked. 

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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