AUG 03, 2015 2:25 PM PDT

Potential Life Saver

WRITTEN BY: Ilene Schneider
Researchers at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, have shown that a combination of three proteins that are found at high levels in urine can accurately detect early-stage pancreatic cancer. The discovery of the three-protein signature could lead to a non-invasive, inexpensive test to screen people at high risk of developing the disease or in its early stages, distinguish pancreatic cancer from pancreatitis and potentially save lives by catching the disease early enough. Funded by the UK charity, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, the study was published in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research, and reported in Science Daily (Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. "Urine test for early stage pancreatic cancer possible after biomarker discovery." ScienceDaily. 3 August 2015) (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150803083345.htm).
Protein-based urine test could detect pancreatic cancer early.
The British study analyzed 488 urine samples: 192 from patients with pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 from healthy volunteers. Another 117 samples from patients with other benign and malignant liver and gall bladder conditions were used for further validation. About 1500 proteins were discovered in the urine samples, with about half being common to both male and female volunteers. Of these, three proteins -- LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1 -- were chosen for closer examination. Patients with pancreatic cancer had increased levels of each of the three proteins when compared healthy patients, while patients with chronic pancreatitis had much lower levels than cancer patients. In combination the three proteins formed a panel to detect patients with stages I and II pancreatic cancer with more than 90 percent accuracy, according to the researchers. Because pancreatic cancer has few symptoms, even at its later stages, more than 80 percent of people with the disease are diagnosed when the cancer has already spread and, thus, not eligible for surgery to remove the tumor, the only potential cure. The five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer in the UK is 3 per cent, the lowest of any common cancer. There is no early diagnostic test for it.

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for pancreatic cancer in the United States for 2015 are: about 48,960 people (24,840 men and 24,120 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and about 40,560 people (20,710 men and 19,850 women) will die of pancreatic cancer. Rates for the disease have been fairly stable over the past several years. Pancreatic cancer accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in the US, and accounts for about 7 percent of cancer deaths. The average lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer is about 1 in 67 (1.5 percent). A person's risk may be altered by certain risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, exposure to workplace chemicals (pesticides, dyes, and chemicals used in metal refining), age, gender (male), race, family history and genetics (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/pancreaticcancer/).

As co-author and director of Barts Cancer Institute, Professor Nick Lemoine, explained,"For a cancer with no early stage symptoms, it's a huge challenge to diagnose pancreatic cancer sooner, but if we can, then we can make a big difference to survival rates. With pancreatic cancer, patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage, but if diagnosed at stage 2, the survival rate is 20 percent, and at stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumors can increase up to 60 per cent."
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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