Researchers have developed a simpler method to detect early and late-stage pancreatic cancer, which could help increase survival rates for patients.
The research, which was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute and was conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was published July 9 in Nature. The work involved looking for biomarkers on tiny, fluid-filled sacs called exosomes, according to a recent NIH Research Matters report.
Finding biomarkers is a noninvasive approach for detecting cancer early, the report stated. Scientists compared exosomes, which are released by cells and circulate in the blood, from a human cancer cell line and multiple noncancerous cell lines, according to the NIH. They also tested several biomarkers, discovering that 48 were unique to the cancer exosomes, with one, Glypican-1 or GPC1, found at high levels in pancreatic and breast cancer cells.
The research also involved isolating exosomes from healthy people and those with breast or pancreatic cancer. The researchers found that 24 out of 32 patients with breast cancer and all 251 pancreatic cancer patients had higher levels of GPC1-containing exosomes in their blood compared to healthy controls, the report stated. Late-stage pancreatic cancer patients had more of the exosomes in their blood than patients in the early stage of the illness.
Because patients with precancerous pancreatic lesions had more GPC1-positive exosomes in their blood than healthy people and patients who had noncancer pancreatic illnesses, researchers concluded that GPC1-positive exosomes might be better biomarkers than what is presently being used. One commonly visited biomarker is carbohydrate antigen 19-9, which in the study, couldn’t distinguish patients with precancerous lesions from those in the healthy control group, according to the NIH.
“This presents an unprecedented opportunity for informative early detection of pancreatic cancer and in designing potential curative surgical options,” lead researcher Raghu Kalluri, MD, PhD, said in the report.
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