Researchers at the University of Texas have discovered a new way of testing people for pancreatic cancer that could catch the disease before it becomes so advanced that treatment is impossible.
Raghu Kalluri found that a specific type of protein, glypican-1, is found in significantly higher numbers in people with pancreatic cancer than in those without. He believes that by testing people for this certain protein, they can be diagnosed sooner than was ever possible.
Pancreatic Cancer is one of the Most Deadly Forms of Cancer
The disease has a survival rate of less than 4 percent. The American Cancer Society estimates that around 40,000 people die from pancreatic cancer each year. The disease is so deadly because of how difficult it is to diagnose. Only 15 percent of cases are diagnosed with enough time to perform surgery or to explore other treatment options.
Kalluri Hopes This New Finding May Creative New Forms of Testing for Pancreatic Cancer
The University of Texas scientist believes that by screening the blood of those at greater risk for developing pancreatic cancer for high levels of the protein glypican- 1, more cases may be spotted in time to offer an effective treatment option. People with a genetic disposition towards pancreatic cancer as well as those over 60 face the greatest risk of developing the disease.
Kalluri also believes the test may be capable of allowing doctors to track the disease with greater accuracy as they administer treatment. If the protein diminishes as the treatments occur, it can give an indication to doctors that the treatment is reducing the severity of the pancreatic cancer.
Kalluri acknowledges that much more research and tests must be done in order to determine how effective this method could be at spotting the deadly cancer.
There are Many Other Researchers Currently Looking for Effective Means of Diagnosing Pancreatic Cancer Earlier
A team at the University of California, Los Angeles is investigating the ways in which saliva may be tied to pancreatic cancer. The team believes that by examining the mouth for certain types of cancer, pancreatic cancer may be able to be diagnosed sooner.
The team compared the bacteria in the mouths of 10 people who were suffering from pancreatic cancer and 10 people who showed no signs of the disease. They found noticeable differences in the microbe populations of the two groups. Certain cells within the mouth have a shape that allows for “good” bacteria to attach itself easily. In people with pancreatic cancer, these cells seemed to change shape, which resulted in more “bad” bacteria being found there. The team found that two different types of “good” bacteria, Neisseria Elongate and Streptococcus Mitis, were found in much smaller quantities in those with pancreatic cancer.
James Farnell, the leader of the study, believes that these findings could one day offer another means of screening for pancreatic cancer. By taking a look at the bacteria populations in the mouths of those who are at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, doctors may be able to diagnose the disease sooner and begin treatment with a higher chance of success.
The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions have created a lab dedicated to specifically exploring the ways in which pancreatic cancer may be detected earlier. They are calling this specific branch The Pancreatic Cancer Early Detection Laboratory. The lab is looking at various genes and genetic patterns that may indicate pancreatic cancer will occur. They are also looking at various ways in which ultrasound may be used to help detect pancreatic cancer. The ultimate goal of the department is to develop a safe, effective, and cheap detection system that can diagnose pancreatic cancer early on in its development so that treatment options may begin before the disease has advanced so far that it is irreversible.