New Blood Test Promises Hope for Pancreatic Cancer

2 min read

April 9, 2024 – Researchers are getting closer to being able to reliably screen for pancreatic cancer by conducting tests on a person’s blood.

Preliminary results were presented this week at a cancer research conference in California and showed that a type of blood test called a “liquid biopsy” was key to achieving a 97% accuracy rate at diagnosing the most common type of pancreatic cancer during early stages.

Currently, it’s difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer during early, more treatable stages and is often only discovered after the disease has advanced, making treatment more difficult.

“The results are exciting because pancreatic cancer diagnosed after it has spread significantly is devastating with a low survival rate. But if we catch it early, there is a better chance we can remove it surgically and further treat it,” said senior study author Ajay Goel, PhD, a professor at the cancer treatment and research center City of Hope in Duarte, CA, in a news release.

The study, which included 523 people with pancreatic cancer and 461 healthy people, combined two existing blood tests to achieve the high rate of accuracy. The liquid biopsy, which detects particles shed by tumors, can link the particles back to where the tissue originated in the body, such as the pancreas. 

The liquid biopsy alone has previously been shown to be between 88% and 93% accurate, according to a news release from City of Hope. But when researchers added information from a blood biomarker test, diagnostic accuracy increased to detecting 97% of stage I or stage II pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

The pancreas is located deep in the body behind the stomach and aids in digestion. It also plays a role in the endocrine system by making the hormone insulin.

An estimated 66,440 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, and nearly 52,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Early diagnosis has a dramatic impact on survival rates: 44% of people with early diagnosis live at least 5 more years, compared to a 3% 5-year survival rate for people whose cancer is diagnosed once it has spread throughout the body.