A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, highlights a model capable of predicting those at high risk of pancreatic cancer. The model offers an alternative screening technique that could be tailored to individuals.
"Pancreatic cancer is a particularly deadly cancer, with about 80 percent of patients diagnosed with advanced, incurable disease," says author Peter Kraft, PhD, who is a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. "Catching it at an earlier stage makes it more likely that surgery will be an option, increasing the chances of survival."
In conducting this study, Kraft and his fellow colleagues were interested in cumulatively analyzing the risk factors for pancreatic cancer. Known factors include family history, chronic conditions like diabetes and pancreatitis, and smoking, in addition to particular circulating biomarkers associated with insulin resistance. "These factors have been investigated individually, and in this study, we wanted to examine the combined effect of clinical factors, common genetic predisposition variants, and circulating biomarkers."
To do so, they analyzed data from over 1,500 people in four large prospective cohort studies: the Health Professionals Follow-up Study; the Nurses' Health Study; the Physicians' Health Study; and the Women's Health Initiative. From this data, they considered lifestyle and clinical characteristics, blood samples, and genomic DNA from peripheral blood leukocytes of the participants.
They then developed three relative risk models for men and women separately. As reported in Eureka Alert, “One featured only clinical factors; one added the weighted genetic risk score to the clinical factors; and the third added biomarkers proinsulin, adiponectin, IL-6, and total branched-chain amino acids.”
The researchers recognize that their results must be verified by future studies. Furthermore, they acknowledge that their study had significant limitations because it only considered U.S. non-Hispanic white participants. Nevertheless, Kraft comments that their results show that there is value in combining biomarkers with clinical and genetic factors.
"Like most cancers, pancreatic cancer is multifactorial," he said. "The more we are able to combine information from multiple domains, the better we will become at identifying those who could benefit from screening."