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Blood Test Might Help Guide Pancreatic Cancer Treatment
Date:1/22/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- A simple blood test might help predict a pancreatic cancer patient's chances of benefiting from chemotherapy, a small study suggests.

Researchers found that they were able to put together a genetic "profile" of patients' pancreatic tumor cells that helped predict whether a given chemotherapy regimen would slow their cancer progression. And it only took a simple blood draw that captured tumor cells floating in the patients' bloodstream.

The test is not yet available in the real world. And the findings, to be reported this week at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, are considered preliminary.

But if further research pans out, experts say the test might help doctors better tailor chemotherapy to individual patients, based on the genetic makeup of their tumors.

"We're moving toward a world where we want to be able to personalize patients' cancer treatment," said senior researcher Dr. Kenneth Yu, an assistant professor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The current findings are "a first step" in realizing that goal, Yu said.

Right now, the outlook for people with pancreatic cancer is grim: only about 5 percent of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis. That's because the disease is rarely caught early, and the cancer has usually spread beyond the pancreas when it's diagnosed.

But in just the past few years, new chemotherapy "cocktails" have helped to control the progression of the cancer and extend people's lives. The difficulty is that one patient may benefit from a particular chemo regimen, but another might not, Yu explained.

So, he and his colleagues are studying a new test that analyzes the "gene expression profile" of tumor cells in the patient's bloodstream. The hope is that specific sets of genetic changes in those tumor cells can help doctors predict
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