Scientists believe that they have developed a simple urine test that may detect pancreatic cancer at an early stage; and in case you didn’t know, this is great news.
In the vast majority of pancreatic cancer cases, the symptoms of this fatal disease do not manifest until it is already at an advanced stage and spread. When it gets to that point, little can be done to save the patients. For decades, doctors and scientist have been looking for an effective way to screen people for pancreatic cancer in the hopes that early detection will result in effective treatment. And at long last, they might be on to something.
“If this test proves to be as good as we hope, we could make an important difference and enable early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer completely noninvasively, using urine samples,” said lead researcher Dr. Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic, a reader in cancer genomics at the Centre for Molecular Oncology at Barts Cancer Institute of Queen Mary University of London.
The team found three indicators (“markers”) that, when combined, signal the beginnings of pancreatic cancer.
“This is important since if this cancer is detected early, patients can undergo surgery, which greatly increases the survival,” she said. “At present, patients are diagnosed with cancer that has already spread and survival is typically three to six months.”
In the study, which was funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research fund, researchers analyzed 488 urine samples, 192 of which were from patients with pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 from healthy people. Atop of that, they examined 117 urine samples from patients with diseases of the liver as well as the gall bladder. Of the 1,500 proteins found in the urine samples, Crnogorac-Jurcevic’s team focused on three: LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1.
The results? The scientist found that the patients who suffered from pancreatic cancer had elevated levels of all three proteins compared with healthy patients and even patients who had chronic pancreatitis. Through examining the combination of these three proteins, the scientists were able to detect early stage pancreatic cancer more than 90 percent of the time.
As it stands, doctors are unaware of the exact cause of pancreatic cancer; however, they do know that those at risk include people with family history, heavy smokers, people who are overweight, and people with diabetes who are over 50. Thankfully, these findings seem to be a glimmer of hope in the early detection of pancreatic cancer, a diagnose that up until know, was often a fatal one.