Using blood tests to identify pancreatic cancer

A blood test could be used to detect pancreatic cancer at the early stages. For this to happen, markers of the cancer must be identified.

Pancreatic cancer is the tenth most common cancer in the UK. There are often no obvious symptoms in the early stages of the disease making it difficult to diagnose until more advanced stages. This can limit the treatment options and further difficulties can occur if the cancer becomes resistant to chemotherapy. If the cancer could be detected earlier, the possibility of successful treatment would be greatly increased.

Healthy cells shed DNA, termed cell free DNA into the bloodstream; the same is true for cancer cells. This project utilises cell free DNA to develop tests for the early detection of pancreatic cancer. By taking a blood test to look at cell-free DNA, cancer genes can be tracked.

One of the hallmarks of cancer presence is the mutation of genes involved in the progression or repression of cell growth. Being able to detect these changes at an early stage would allow patients to be identified and treated potentially before the cancer spreads.

One key benefit of using cell-free DNA as a “liquid biopsy” is that a blood sample is well tolerated, and is a minimally invasive alternative to the current method of tissue biopsy. This liquid biopsy analysis could also be expanded to personalising treatment and to track any emergence of resistance to therapy.

Using a “liquid biopsy” to detect pancreatic cancer at its early stages

This project investigates which pancreatic cancer mutations can be identified through blood tests, and aims to develop a custom panel of genes to form the basis of the genetic test. This could help detect pancreatic cancer earlier, allowing more effective treatment and improving the life chances for patients.

This award of £75,000 was awarded to Prof Jacqui Shaw and Prof Maggie Manson. The research was carried out by Dr. Patricia Adamo.

More information (links open in a new tab):

Pancreatic cancer

Liquid biopsies

Cell free DNA as cancer biomarker