A handful of proteins, detected in incredibly tiny amounts, may one day help doctors distinguish between a harmless lesion in the pancreas and a potentially deadly one, say researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
The researchers believe that these protein biomarkers, if confirmed in subsequent studies, could represent reliable indicators of pancreatic cancer or precancerous pancreatic lesions, which would allow for earlier, perhaps more successful, treatment. Their findings appear in the March issue of the journal Pancreas, available online now.
"New technologies have become very good at identifying pancreatic cysts when they appear, but we know very little about how to categorize these cysts," says the study's senior author Anthony Yeung, Ph.D., molecular biologist and member of Fox Chase's faculty. "We can detect, in as little as 40 microliters of cyst fluids a group of proteins that might collectively be used as indicators of a potentially cancerous cyst."
The difficulty of detecting pancreatic cancer early is one of the reasons that the disease remains one of the deadliest forms of cancer. In some cases, pancreatic cancer develops within small pancreatic cysts that are originally benign, but become cancerous over time. As high-resolution imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are used more often in clinical medicine, doctors are finding many more small, fluid-filled cystic lesions of the pancreas.
"Many of these cysts are completely benign and have little or no risk of becoming cancerous. However, a subset of pancreatic cysts carry a real risk of becoming malignant over time," says co-author Jeffrey Tokar, M.D., Fox Chase gastroenterologist. "Many patients with pancreatic cysts are referred to us for endoscopic needle aspiration of fluid within the cyst, which is then sent to the laboratory and a variety of tests are commonly performed. However, while these tests can be useful, it
|Contact: Greg Lester|
Fox Chase Cancer Center