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New test may catch pancreatic cancer in earlier stages

By
Tauren Dyson
Pancreatic cancer is detected by calculating the level of sugar it produces that leaks into the bloodstream. Photo by toeytoey/Shutterstock
Pancreatic cancer is detected by calculating the level of sugar it produces that leaks into the bloodstream. Photo by toeytoey/Shutterstock

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A new pancreatic cancer test could detect the disease before it progresses to later, deadly stages, new research says.

Scientists have developed tests that pinpoints close to 70 percent of pancreatic cancer with less than 5 percent false-positive rate, according to a study published this month in Clinical Cancer Research.

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"Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease made even more devastating by its tendency to spread before detection, which is a serious roadblock to successful medical treatment," Brian Haab, a professor at the Van Andel Research Institute and the study's senior author, said in a press release. "We hope that our new test, when used in conjunction with the currently available test, will help doctors catch and treat pancreatic cancer in high-risk individuals before the disease has spread."

Pancreatic cancer often occurs without early symptoms, making it hard to diagnose. Once doctors finally discover the disease, it's in an advanced stage making it harder to treat. In fact, the survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer is 8.5 percent.

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The American Cancer Society says pancreatic cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers and 7 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

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Pancreatic cancer is detected by calculating the level of sugar it produces that leaks into the bloodstream. The new test, however, measures a sugar called sTRA, which comes from a different subset of pancreatic cancers. The traditional test, which measures a sugar known as CA-19-9, only confirms a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Developed 40 years ago, the CA-19-9 test only detects 40 percent of pancreatic cancers, and its only practical use is to track the progression of the disease. When used in combination, both the sTRA and CA-19-9 tests work effectively to locate the disease in its early stages.

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"We believe using these tests in a complementary fashion will help physicians detect pancreatic cancers much sooner in the disease process, which significantly improves a patient's chance for survival," Haab said. "Right now, there are few options for people suspected to have pancreatic cancer. This combined blood test could be a simple, cost-effective way to detect disease early enough to improve patient outcomes."

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