A simple urine test that could detect early-stage pancreatic cancer, potentially saving hundreds of lives, has been developed by scientists.
Researchers say they have identified three proteins which give an early warning of the disease, with more than 90% accuracy. The discovery could lead to a non-invasive, inexpensive test to screen people at high risk of developing the disease.
A team at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, found the three-protein “signature” can identify the most common pancreatic cancer in its early stages and distinguish between this cancer and the inflammatory condition chronic pancreatitis, which can be hard to tell apart.
Lead researcher Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic said: “We’ve always been keen to develop a diagnostic test in urine as it has several advantages over using blood. It can be repeatedly and non-invasively tested. We’re hopeful that a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years.”
The study, published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, looked at 488 urine samples — 192 from patients known to have pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis, and 87 from healthy volunteers. A further 117 samples from patients with other benign and malignant liver and gall bladder conditions were also tested.
Co-author and director of Barts Cancer Institute, Nick Lemoine, said the findings could make a “big difference” to survival rates.
“With pancreatic cancer, patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage, but if diagnosed at stage 2, the survival rate is 20%, and at stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumours can increase up to 60%,” said Prof Lemoine.
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