Pro­tein could lead to ear­lier de­tec­tion rate for pan­cre­atic can­cer

The China Post - - FEATURE -

Sci­en­tists said Wed­nes­day they had iden­ti­fied a marker in blood for pan­cre­atic can­cer, rais­ing hopes for a test that would al­low ear­lier di­ag­no­sis of this deadly dis­ease.

A re­search team from the United States and Europe said peo­ple with can­cer of the pan­creas had a pro­tein called glyp­i­can-1 (GPC1) in their blood.

The pro­tein is con­tained in ex­o­somes — tiny bags con­tain­ing ge­netic in­for­ma­tion in the form of DNA and RNA which are ex­creted by all types of cells. Ex­o­somes from healthy cells were not found to con­tain GPC1.

Hav­ing found the marker in mice, the team took blood sam­ples from hu­mans, and found GPC1 in the blood of all 250 pan­cre­atic can­cer pa­tients they tested, ac­cord­ing to study re­sults pub­lished in the jour­nal Na­ture.

They were able to dis­tin­guish be­tween the blood of can­cer suf­fer­ers and 120 healthy vol­un­teers — “a highly re­li­able biomarker,” study co-au­thor Raghu Kal­luri of the Univer­sity of Texas’ MD An­der­son Can­cer Cen­ter told AFP.

There were no false pos­i­tives or false neg­a­tives, the team said. And the test showed higher lev­els of the pro­tein in peo­ple who were more se­verely ill, sug­gest­ing it could also be used to moni- tor dis­ease pro­gres­sion.

Pan­cre­atic can­cer has a poor sur­vival prog­no­sis, largely be­cause it of­ten goes un­de­tected for long, giv­ing it time to spread.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer, pan­cre­atic can­cer was re­spon­si­ble for about 3.7 per­cent (173,827) of can­cer deaths in 2012, and 2.4 per­cent (178,161) of to­tal can­cer cases.

The dis­cov­ery may raise hopes for an ear­lier de­tec­tion method in fu­ture — be­fore stan­dard imag­ing and tis­sue anal­y­sis can pick up the tell-tale signs of pan­cre­atic can­cer.

But while out­siders de­scribed the find­ings as ex­cit­ing, they cau­tioned that fur­ther re­search is needed to con­firm the re­sult.

“The GPC1-pos­i­tive ex­o­somes were shown to be present in symp­to­matic pa­tients, but there is no ev­i­dence that the GPC1­pos­i­tive ex­o­somes would be present be­fore symp­toms de­velop,” Paul Pharoah, a can­cer epi­demi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge said in com­ments car­ried by Bri­tain’s Science Media Cen­tre.

Added Alastair Wat­son of the Univer­sity of East Anglia, the new test “is very com­plex to per­form and many rou­tine di­ag­nos­tic labs will not have the equip­ment re­quired.”

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