New method can diagnose pancreatic cancer with 97% certainty

Pancreatic cancer is often detected at a late stage, which results in poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Researchers at The Sahlgrenska Academy have now developed a method which identifies the cancer’s visible precursors with 97% certainty.

The method, which is expected to aid in the early discovery of the cancer as well as minimize the risk of unnecessary surgery, may be introduced in patient care within five years.

The poor prognosis for pancreatic cancer, where only 5 percent of the patients survive five years after the diagnosis, is due to the fact that the tumors often develop unnoticed, and rarely cause symptoms until they have spread to other organs.

Recent studies, however, have shown that fluid-filled compartments in the pancreas, called cysts, may be precursors of the cancer.

Cysts in the pancreas, which are found in every 10th person above the age of 70, and are also common in younger people, can be discovered with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The problem is that imaging alone cannot determine which cysts are at risk for developing into cancer. Therefore, it often becomes necessary to puncture the cyst and look for tumor markers in the cyst fluid but not even these analyses are reliable.

Removing the cyst by surgery, with the knowledge that it may turn out to be completely benign, is also problematic since the operation is extensive, with considerable risks for the patient.

Source: University of Gothenburg, Sweden

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