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Optical techniques show continued promise in detecting pancreatic cancer
Date:3/2/2009

late the "area under the receiver operator characteristic" (AUROC), which is an analysis of the accuracy of the test in distinguishing healthy samples from diseased samples. While the sensitivity and specificity of tests may vary based on the threshold set by researchers for diagnosis, the AUROC measures the overall efficacy of the diagnostic technique. The analysis showed an 85 percent AUROC for the Northwestern method. (Clinically sound tests typically have an AUROC greater than 70 percent.)

The study in Disease Markers also reports promising results in detecting mucinous cyst lesions, which are a precursor to cancer. If confirmed in further clinical trials, this approach may lead to a method for early diagnosis.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly forms of cancer, with a five-year survival rate of just 5 percent. It is so deadly, in part, because early detection is difficult. There is a high risk of complications if the pancreas is examined directly, so routine inspections for at-risk patients usually are not an option. In fact, only 7 percent of people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease, when the cancer is still confined to its primary site. More than half of all people with the disease are not diagnosed until the cancer has already metastasized.

"Typically, by the time a patient is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is too late for the most successful treatments," says Backman. "Our hope is that this technology will provide a better method for early diagnosis of the disease, which could greatly improve the survival rate."

The technology combines two complementary optical techniques, four-dimensional elastic light-scattering fingerprinting (4D-ELF) and low-coherence enhanced backscattering spectroscopy (LEBS). The researchers found that the two combined work better than one alone in pancreatic cancer screening.

During the test, a xenon lamp shines intense, white
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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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