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New Study Reveals Early Blood Test Might Detect Pancreatic Cancer

Update Date: Mar 30, 2013 08:37 PM EDT

Japanese researchers say that early blood tests may help in detecting deadly pancreatic cancer earlier than usual and could increase the chances for survival, according to a new study.

Pancreatic cancer is normally caught in late stages and very difficult to treat, so any studies that suggest early detection of pancreatic cancer raise hopes. The researchers examined the utility of metabolomic analysis as a diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer and then validated the new approach. The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 

"This new diagnostic test may be a safe and easy screening method that could improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer through earlier detection," said lead researcher Dr. Masaru Yoshida, an associate professor in the division of metabolomics research at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine. "A drop of blood contains a lot of information."

The scientists randomly assigned 43 patients with pancreatic cancer and 42 healthy volunteers to a training set and 42 patients with pancreatic cancer and 41 healthy volunteers to a validation set. They included all 23 patients with chronic pancreatitis in the validation set.

This test could detect and differentiate cancerous cells from normal cells. The researchers found that cancer cells produce molecules and proteins in different amounts than normal cells.

Finding pancreatic cancer earlier means more patients can have the tumor removed and live longer than most patients do now, Yoshida noted.

"Conventional tests using blood or imaging are not appropriate for pancreatic cancer screening and early detection, so new screening and diagnostic methods for pancreatic cancer are urgently required," Yoshida said.

Yoshida said that their diagnostic approach using serum metabolomics possessed higher accuracy than conventional tumor markers, especially at detecting the patients with pancreatic cancer in the cohort that included the patients with chronic pancreatitis. 

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