Better Way to Diagnose Cancer Sooner

Noninvasive test for pancreatic cancer being studied

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The main reason pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest to treat is because it's usually diagnosed so late. There are currently no early screening tools, but that may soon change.

Mayo clinic researchers think they have developed a way to noninvasively screen for pancreatic cancer by performing DNA testing on stool samples.

"Diagnosing pancreatic cancer earlier may soon be possible."

Scientists know that something known as methylation is a change or mutation in DNA that's seen in cancers and pre-cancers. Based on this knowledge, the Mayo team wanted to see if these genes were present in patients who had already been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

John Kisiel, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist who presented the study findings at the 2011 Digestive Disease Week conference, says researchers found two markers that together were detected in the stool of 70 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer.

These markers were present regardless of the stage or location of the disease.

It's hoped that the results of this study may translate into early detection of pancreatic cancer, which in turn could dramatically increase survival rates. The tests would require no equipment, are noninvasive, and patients could collect the samples in their homes and send them off to a lab.

Beyond pancreatic cancer screenings, this study may lead to effective stool testing for all cancers of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Dr. Kisiel says these findings will assist researchers in developing a panel of markers that could pick up cancers and pre-cancers throughout the GI tract.

Note: Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer- reviewed journal.

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Review Date: 
June 28, 2011
Last Updated:
October 18, 2012