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Promising new blood test for pancreatic cancer

18 January 2012

A promising new blood test for the most common form of pancreatic cancer has been reported by researchers at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco this week

A promising new blood test for the most common form of pancreatic cancer has been reported by researchers at the annual Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco this week. The researchers from the Garden State Cancer Centre (GSCC) in the USA report using an antibody based test to correctly identify 82% of patients known to have pancreatic cancer.

The study was based on nearly 300 patients and showed the test successfully detected nearly two thirds of early stage pancreatic cancer. The findings show promise for an early diagnostic test for the disease which could improve patients’ prognosis.

The test used an antibody called PAM4 to detect a protein often found in cancers, called PAM4-antigen. The researchers presented a second study, at the same conference, which compared this test with another commonly used by doctors to distinguish between pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Author of the studies, Dr David Gold who is Director of Laboratory Administration at the GSCC, reported that both tests gave comparable results: of the 480 patient samples tested, 74% were positively identified for pancreatic cancer using the PAM4-based test compared to 77% identified using the other test. Moreover, when the researchers combined the two tests, they were able to successfully detect 84% of pancreatic cancers.

These studies both show promise for the development of a new blood test for early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Dr Gold hopes to expand the number of patient samples tested to over 600, and to trial the test using individuals with both malignant and benign forms of pancreatic diseases.

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