American Association for Cancer Research

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New Metabolite-based Diagnostic Test Could Help Detect Pancreatic Cancer Early


March 29, 2013

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  • Test requires measurement of certain metabolite levels in patients’ blood.
  • Diagnostic test showed high sensitivity and specificity.
PHILADELPHIA — A new diagnostic test that uses a scientific technique known as metabolomic analysis may be a safe and easy screening method that could improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer through earlier detection.

Researchers examined the utility of metabolomic analysis as a diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer and then validated the new approach, according to study results published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Although surgical resection can be a curative treatment for pancreatic cancer, more than 80 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer have a locally advanced or metastatic tumor that is unresectable at the time of detection,” said Masaru Yoshida, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Metabolomics Research at Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine in Kobe, Japan. “Conventional examinations using blood, imaging and endoscopy are not appropriate for pancreatic cancer screening and early detection, so a novel screening and diagnostic method for pancreatic cancer is urgently required.”

Using gas chromatography mass spectrometry, the researchers measured the levels of metabolites in the blood of patients with pancreatic cancer, patients with chronic pancreatitis and healthy volunteers. They randomly assigned 43 patients with pancreatic cancer and 42 healthy volunteers to a training set and 42 patients with pancreatic cancer and 41 healthy volunteers to a validation set. They included all 23 patients with chronic pancreatitis in the validation set.

Analysis of the metabolomic data generated from the training set indicated that levels of 18 metabolites were significantly different in the blood of patients with pancreatic cancer compared with the healthy volunteers. Further investigation led the researchers to develop a method to predict a pancreatic cancer diagnosis using assessment of the levels of just four metabolites. In the training set, the approach demonstrated 86 percent sensitivity and 88.1 percent specificity. When tested again in the validation set, which included patients with chronic pancreatitis, the method demonstrated 71.4 percent sensitivity and 78.1 percent specificity.

“Our diagnostic approach using serum metabolomics possessed higher accuracy than conventional tumor markers, especially at detecting the patients with pancreatic cancer in the cohort that included the patients with chronic pancreatitis,” Yoshida said. “This novel diagnostic approach, which is safe and easy to apply as a screening method, is expected to improve the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer by detecting their cancers early, when still in a resectable and curable state.”

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About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
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Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org