Pancreatic Cancer Detected by Blood Test
Study Shows Test for PAM4 Protein Can Reveal Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer
WebMD News Archive
"The test was positive in 77% of pancreatic patients, but only 5% of
patients with other forms of cancer," Gold says. "Thus we know that if the
[test] is positive, there is a large likelihood a patient has pancreatic
For the new study, the researchers evaluated the PAM4 protein test in 68
people who had pancreatic cancer surgery and 19 healthy people.
The test correctly detected 62% of very early-stage pancreatic cancers that
were still confined to the pancreas, 86% of cases that had spread only to
nearby tissue, and 91% of later-stage cancers that had spread further
throughout the body.
Overall, the test correctly identified 81% of all pancreatic cancers.
Screening for Pancreatic Cancer
If the findings are validated in larger numbers of people, Gold foresees the
test being used to screen people at high risk of pancreatic cancer. This
includes people with long-term diabetes, those with chronic pancreatitis,
people with a history of tobacco or alcohol use, and those with a family
history or genetic factors that place them at increased risk, he says.
Also, "if a doctor suspects pancreatic cancer, the test could be used to
distinguish between various types of cancer and healthy tissue," he says. The
test could also be used to monitor patients who have undergone treatment for
signs of recurrence, Gold says.
He predicts the test will be available in two to three years.
In a separate study of 21 people with advanced pancreatic cancer, the
researchers also tested whether the antibody could be used as a treatment to
bring targeted agents to the cancer.
The antibody is attached to radioactive isotopes and injected into the body.
The idea is that once the antibody homes in on tumor cells, radiation is
released, killing the tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue.
In the study, tumors shrank in 23% of the patients and stopped growing in an
additional 45%, Gold says.
Robert P. Sticca, MD, of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health
Sciences, who moderated a news briefing, tells WebMD that he is very
enthusiastic about the possibilities.
"If we had a blood test that could detect cancer early, we could better
manage our patients and we would have few deaths. The added benefit of using it
as a treatment option is also very exciting," he says.