A research team pinpointed microRNA panels in blood that could distinguish "to some degree" between patients who had pancreatic cancer and those who did not, a Jama Network Journals news release reported.
MicroRNAs have been known to play a key role in tumor development and metastasis as well as regulating gene expression. "Panels" are combinations of various MicroRNAs.
Several of these MicroRNA patterns are associated with pancreatic cancer tissue and could be spotted in a blood test.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common source of cancer death in the Western world, and it is tricky to diagnose since it is difficult to obtain tissue samples. Having the ability to diagnose the condition earlier could save a number of lives.
Nicolai A. Schultz, M.D., Ph.D., of Herlev Hospital, Copenhagen University Hospital and her research team compared blood samples of patients who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or suffered from chronic pancreatic cancer and healthy patients.
The team also took the serum cancer antigen 19-9 ("an antigen that is elevated in approximately 80 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer") was also taken into account.
The researchers were successful in identifying two specific panels associated with pancreatic cancer. The test could prompt patients to seek imaging for their diagnosis.
"The test could thereby diagnose more patients with pancreatic cancer, some of them at an early stage, and thus have a potential to increase the number of patients that can be operated on and possibly cured of pancreatic cancer," the authors wrote, according to the news release.
The team qualified that these results were only preliminary, and further research would be required in order to move the possibility of blood testing for pancreatic cancer forward.
"Although we validated the panels, our findings are preliminary. ... Further research is necessary to understand whether these have clinical implications for early detection of pancreatic cancer and how much this information adds to serum CA19-9," the researchers wrote.
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