Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Technology
Networks
Scientific Communities
 
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

Join For Free

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 4,000+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 5,300+ 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

Uncovering the Genetics Behind High Blood Pressure
Results suggest a role for blood vessels themselves in controlling blood pressure.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Fruit Fly Pheromone Flags Great Real Estate for Starting a Family
Finding could aid efforts to control mosquito-borne diseases like malaria by manipulating odorants
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Paternal Sperm May Hold Clues to Autism
Tags on DNA from fathers’ sperm linked to children’s autism symptoms.
Friday, April 17, 2015
New Autism-Causing Genetic Variant Identified
Novel approach expected to be useful for other diseases too.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
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
Enzyme's Alter Ego Helps Activate the Immune System
Findings could shed light on related Alzheimer's protein.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Researchers Tease Out Glitches in Immune System's Self-Recognition
A new study revises understanding of how the process works and sheds light on autoimmune disease.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Cancer Leaves a Common Fingerprint on DNA
Chemical alterations to genes appear key to tumor development.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Researchers Use Human Stem Cells to Create Light-Sensitive Retina in a Dish
Johns Hopkins researchers have created a 3-D complement of human retinal tissue in the laboratory.
Saturday, June 14, 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
New Testing Strategy Detects Population-Wide Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Could speed mass intervention in developing countries.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Stem Cells may do Best with a Little Help from their Friends
“Helper cells” improve survival rate of transplanted stem cells, mouse study finds.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Molecular Marker Predicts Patients Most Likely to Benefit Longest From Two Popular Cancer Drugs
Preliminary study needs further confirmation.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Discovery Increases Diagnostic Certainty and Opportunity for Individualized Drug Therapy
Of the over 1,900 errors already reported in the gene responsible for CF, it is unclear how many of them actually contribute to the inherited disease.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Scientific News
Big Genetics in BC: The American Society for Human Genetics 2016 Meeting
Themes at this year's meeting ranged from the verification, validation, and sharing of data, to the translation of laboratory findings into actionable clinical results.
Stem Cells in Drug Discovery
Potential Source of Unlimited Human Test Cells, but Roadblocks Remain.
Automated Low Volume Dispensing Trends
Gain a better understanding of the current and future market requirements for fully automated LVD systems.
Cancer Genetics: Key to Diagnosis, Therapy
When applied judiciously, cancer genetics directs caregivers to the right drug at the right time, while sparing patients of unnecessary or harmful treatments.
Unique Visual Stimulation May Be New Treatment for Alzheimer’s
Noninvasive technique reduces beta amyloid plaques in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.
Major Neuroscience Initiative Launched
Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute invest $115 million to further expand neuroscience research, while Caltech construct $200 million biosciences complex.
Making It Personal
Cancer vaccine linked to increased immune response against leukemia cells.
Genetics Control Regenerative Properties Of Stem Cells
Researchers define how genetic factors control regenerative properties of blood-forming stem cells.
Diabetes Missing Link Discovered
Researchers from the University of Auckland have shown that beta catenin plays a vital role in the control of insulin release from the pancreas.
Study Reveals New Role for Hippo Pathway in Suppressing Cancer Immunity
Hippo pathway signaling regulates organ size by moderating cell growth, apoptosis and stem cell renewal, but dysregulation contributes to cancer development.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
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
4,000+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
5,300+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!