Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
RNAi
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

A Simple Blood Test May Catch Early Pancreatic Cancer

Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Currently, disease usually found too late to save lives.

Reporting on a small preliminary study, Johns Hopkins researchers say a simple blood test based on detection of tiny epigenetic alterations may reveal the earliest signs of pancreatic cancer, a disease that is nearly always fatal because it isn’t usually discovered until it has spread to other parts of the body.

The findings of their research, if confirmed, they say, could be an important step in reducing mortality from the cancer, which has an overall five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent and has seen few improvements in survival over the last three decades.

“We have mammograms to screen for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer but we have had nothing to help us screen for pancreatic cancer,” says Nita Ahuja, M.D., an associate professor of surgery, oncology and urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study described online this month in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. “While far from perfect, we think we have found an early detection marker for pancreatic cancer that may allow us to locate and attack the disease at a much earlier stage than we usually do.”

For their study, Ahuja and her colleagues were able to identify two genes, BNC1 and ADAMTS1, which together were detectable in 81 percent of blood samples from 42 people with early-stage pancreatic cancer, but not in patients without the disease or in patients with a history of pancreatitis, a risk factor for pancreatic cancer. By contrast, the commonly used PSA antigen test for prostate cancer only picks up about 20 percent of prostate cancers.

Ahuja and her colleagues found that in pancreatic cancer cells, it appears that chemical alterations to BNC1 and ADAMTS1 — epigenetic modifications that alter the way the genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence — silence the genes and prevent them from making their protein product, the role of which is not well-understood. These alterations are caused by the addition of a methyl group to the DNA.

Using a very sensitive method called Methylation on Beads (MOB) developed by Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, Ph.D., a professor at the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the researchers were able to single out, in the blood, even the smallest strands of DNA of those two genes with their added methyl groups. The technique uses nanoparticle magnets to latch on to the few molecules being shed by the tumors, which are enough to signal the presence of pancreatic cancer in the body, the researchers found.

Specifically, researchers say, they found BNC1 and ADAMTS1 in 97 percent of tissues from early-stage invasive pancreatic cancers. Surgery is the best chance for survival in pancreatic cancer, because radiation and chemotherapy are not very effective against it. The smaller the cancer — the earlier it is detected — the more likely surgery will be successful and the patient will survive.

Ahuja says the practical value of any blood test for cancer markers depends critically on its sensitivity, meaning the proportion of tumors it detects, and its specificity, meaning how many of the positive results are false alarms. The specificity of this new pair of markers is 85 percent, meaning 15 percent would be false alarms. Ahuja says she hopes further research will help refine the test, possibly by adding another gene or two, in order to go over 90 percent in both sensitivity and specificity.

Ahuja also cautions that her team still needs to duplicate the results in a larger sample of tumors, but is encouraged by the results so far. She says she doesn’t envision the blood test as a means of screening the general population, the way mammograms and colonoscopies are used to find early breast and colon cancers. Instead, she imagines it would be best used in people at high risk for developing the disease, such as those with a family history of pancreatic cancer, a previous case of pancreatitis, long-term smokers or people with the BRCA gene mutations, which are linked to breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

“You have to optimize your medical resources,” says Ahuja, who hopes a commercial blood test might one day only cost $50.

She also notes that once BNC1 and ADAMTS1 are identified in a patient’s blood, further tests will be needed to locate an actual cancer.

People who test positive will likely undergo CT scanning and/or endoscopic ultrasound tests ¬— whereby a tube is placed down the throat into the stomach to image the pancreas — to search for the cancer. Surgery to remove it would presumably have a better chance of curing the disease owing to its small size and early stage.


Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,500+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,700+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Bad Luck of Random Mutations Plays Predominant Role in Cancer, Study Shows
Statistical modeling links cancer risk with number of stem cell divisions.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Cancer Leaves a Common Fingerprint on DNA
Chemical alterations to genes appear key to tumor development.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Signals Found That Recruit Host Animals’ Cells, Enabling Breast Cancer Metastasis
Mouse studies suggest that blocking aid from white blood cells and stem cells could keep tumors contained.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Common Genetic Pathway Could Be Conduit to Pediatric Tumor Treatment
Investigators have found a known genetic pathway to be active in many difficult-to-treat pediatric brain tumors called low-grade gliomas.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Tumor-suppressor Protein Gives Up Its Secrets
Discovery promises new targets for cancer drug design.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Cancer-Linked Fam190a Gene Found to Regulate Cell Division
Scientists have discovered that a little-described gene known as FAM190A plays a subtle but critical role in regulating the normal cell division process known as mitosis.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
Scientists Pair Blood Test and Gene Sequencing to Detect Cancer
Scientists have combined the ability to detect cancer DNA in the blood with genome sequencing technology in a test that could be used to screen for cancers, monitor cancer patients for recurrence and find residual cancer left after surgery.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Researchers Link New Molecular Culprit to Breast Cancer Progression
Johns Hopkins researchers have uncovered a protein “partner” commonly used by breast cancer cells to unlock genes needed for spreading the disease around the body.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Lost Molecule is Lethal for Liver Cancer Cells in Mice
MicroRNA kills tumor cells and lets healthy cells live. Scientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered a potential strategy for cancer therapy by focusing on what’s missing in tumors.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Scientific News
Microscopic Fish are 3D-Printed to do More Than Swim
Researchers demonstrate a novel method to build microscopic robots with complex shapes and functionalities.
Inciting an Immune Attack on Cancer Cells
A new minimally invasive vaccine that combines cancer cells and immune-enhancing factors could be used clinically to launch a destructive attack on tumors.
Reprogramming Cancer Cells
Researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus have discovered a way to potentially reprogram cancer cells back to normalcy.
New Strategy for Combating Adenoviruses
Using an animal model they developed, Saint Louis University and Utah State university researchers have identified a strategy that could keep a common group of viruses called adenoviruses from replicating and causing sickness in humans.
Surprising Mechanism Behind Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Uncovered
Now, scientists at TSRI have discovered that the important human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, develops resistance to this drug by “switching on” a previously uncharacterized set of genes.
Fat in the Family?
Study could lead to therapeutics that boost metabolism.
Imaging Software Could Speed Up Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Researchers use high speed optical microscopy of intact breast tissue specimens to analyze breast tissue.
A Metabolic Master Switch Underlying Human Obesity
Researchers find pathway that controls metabolism by prompting fat cells to store or burn fat.
Synthetic DNA Vaccine Against MERS Shows Promise
A novel synthetic DNA vaccine can, for the first time, induce protective immunity against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in animal species.
How Small RNA Helps Form Memories
In a new study, a team of scientists at Scripps Florida has found that a type of genetic material called "microRNA" (miRNA) plays surprisingly different roles in the formation of memory in animal models.
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,500+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,700+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FREE!