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Medicineworld.org: Determining Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

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Determining Risk for Pancreatic Cancer




In the latest clinical trial for a technique to detect pancreas cancer, scientists found they could differentiate cells that are malignant from those that are benign, pre-malignant, or even early stage indicators called mucinous cystic lesions.

Pancreas cancer is dangerous to screen for, yet deadly if ignored. The pancreas is extremely sensitive--biopsies can lead to potentially fatal complications--but with few symptoms, the cancer is commonly detected too late.

The disease is the fourth largest cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, with a five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent. If doctors can find ways to identify early precursor lesions, the disease can be prevented in most individuals.



Determining Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

Reporting online Feb. 10, 2009, in the journal Disease Markers, scientists from Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare report convincing results with their minimally invasive methods for detecting pancreas cancer.

"This technique allows us to detect changes in cells that look normal using microscopy," says co-author Vadim Backman of Northwestern University. "This level of detail allows us to detect cancer in its earliest stages".

Their techniques, called four-dimensional elastic light scattering fingerprinting (4D-ELF) and low-coherence enhanced backscattering spectroscopy (LEBS), identify the cancer and its precursors by analyzing light refracted through cells in the duodenum, a section of the small intestine adjacent to the pancreas.

"I'm excited about this work," said Leon Esterowitz, the National Science Foundation (NSF) biophotonics program director who helped fund this study and the development of the 4D-ELF and LEBS technologies. "I believe these results are very promising, and the techniques have a high probability of success for not just detecting early pancreas cancer, but pre-cancer, so doctors can go ahead and treat the patient while there's still a chance to defeat the disease." Esterowitz added. "For pancreas cancer, this could lead to not only an excellent prognosis, but perhaps even a cure".

While earlier success had shown that the techniques could tell malignant from non-malignant tissue without resorting to a biopsy, the newly released study of 203 individuals was the first to show the method can identify various disease stages and risk factors, including a possible signature correlation to "family history".

The researchers' approach had a sensitivity of 95 percent for determining healthy tissue from malignant tissue and may be the most successful yet developed for detecting pancreatic diseases at curable stages and for identifying high-risk individuals.

"These optical techniques have shown promise for detecting both colon and pancreas cancer," says Backman. "Our hope is to continue to test the ability to detect other forms of cancer, which would greatly expand the impact of the technology." In ongoing work, the scientists will continue to refine their instrumentation and hope to validate the recent findings with further clinical trials.


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Did you know?
In the latest clinical trial for a technique to detect pancreas cancer, scientists found they could differentiate cells that are malignant from those that are benign, pre-malignant, or even early stage indicators called mucinous cystic lesions. Pancreas cancer is dangerous to screen for, yet deadly if ignored. The pancreas is extremely sensitive--biopsies can lead to potentially fatal complications--but with few symptoms, the cancer is commonly detected too late.

Medicineworld.org: Determining Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

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