Pancreatic cancer urine test on the horizon

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  • Published: Aug 5, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Proteomics & Genomics / Proteomics
thumbnail image: Pancreatic cancer urine test on the horizon

A urine test to diagnose pancreatic cancer in the early stages has been brought much closer with the identification of a group of three signature proteins.

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in Europe and the US due to the fact that the symptoms are not obvious until the disease is well established and has begun to spread. As a result, the five-year survival rates are exceedingly low at just 5%.

An international team of researchers has taken great steps towards improving the survival rate by finding three proteins excreted in urine that are more abundant than normal for pancreatic cancer sufferers. What is more, the same three proteins are at significantly lower levels in people with chronic pancreatitis, for which the symptoms are very similar.

In a study of 192 patients with pancreatic cancer, 92 with chronic pancreatitis and 87 healthy volunteers, patients with stages I-II pancreatic cancer were diagnosed with over 90 per cent accuracy. The details are described in Clinical Cancer Research.

Lead researcher Dr Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic from Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London said: "This is a biomarker panel with good specificity and sensitivity and we’re hopeful that a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years."

If the findings are validated in a wider study, then the proteins will be used as the basis of a simple, non-invasive urinary screening test for people at higher risk of the cancer. These include people over the age of 50 smokers and those with a family history of the disease.

Maggie Blanks, CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund which funded the research, added "This is an exciting finding and we hope to see this research taken forward into a much needed early diagnostic test. Many of the urine samples from healthy individuals tested by Tanja’s team were donated from the charity’s own supporter community, and I know they will be extremely proud that they have directly contributed to research progress in ways that go beyond traditional financial support."

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