Researchers at Mayo Clinic have developed a promising method to distinguish between pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis: a molecular marker obtained from pancreatic “juices” can identify almost all cases of pancreatic cancer, their study shows.
The research team tested a method that examined secretions from the pancreas during a routine upper endoscopy. In patients suspected of having chronic pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer, physicians use a thin flexible scope to examine the upper digestive tract. In this study, during such routine endoscopies, physicians injected the substance secretin intravenously, to fool the pancreas into believing the stomach contained food that the pancreas needed to help digest. The organ then secreted juice rich in enzymes to help break down the food, along with exfoliated cells, and researchers collected some of this fluid.
Researchers examined the juice for markers that might distinguish the two disorders, and discovered that the altered gene CD1D, as a single marker, detected 75% of patients later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but was present in only 9% of patients with chronic pancreatitis. They now are working on further improving the accuracy of this promising molecular diagnostic approach. When such a biomarker test is perfected, it could be used not only to distinguish pancreatic cancer from chronic pancreatitis, but, potentially, as a screening test for patients at high risk for pancreatic cancer. Read more about research at Mayo Clinic.