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Blood test may detect pancreatic cancer

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

A blood test under development may be the first accurate, noninvasive method of detecting pancreatic cancer, research suggests.

Researchers at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center reported in the journal Cancer Prevention Research that the expression of four small molecules, called microRNAs, which are prevalent in the blood plasma of pancreatic cancer patients, may allow doctors to administer a blood test to diagnose the disease.

Subrata Sen, associate professor in M.D. Anderson's Department of Molecular Pathology commented that the identification of these microRNAs as biomarkers constitutes a "novel approach for developing a minimally invasive assay for detecting" pancreatic cancer.

Sen and his colleagues analyzed 28 patients with pancreatic cancer and 19 healthy people. Using the microRNA as indicators, the research team was able to accurately identify 64 percent of the pancreatic cancer cases and 89 percent of the control group.

Though the researchers concede that the results are based on a small sample size, they are currently developing studies of larger sample sizes and different grades and stages of the cancer, in conjunction with the Early Detection Research Network of the National cancer Institute.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., with fewer than 5 percent of patients surviving to five years after the diagnosis.

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