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Novel noninvasive method for pancreatic cancer detection

A team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered a new way to potentially detect pancreatic cancer: searching for DNA clues in patients’ stool samples. This work was presented by gastroenterologist John Kisiel, MD at the 2011 Digestive Disease Week conference, May 7-10, 2011 in Chicago. Another author on this study is Gloria Petersen, PhD, member of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Scientific Advisory Board.

Previous research has suggested that patient stool samples may be useful in diagnosing colon and other cancer types. Therefore, Drs. Kisiel, Petersen, and colleagues hypothesized that stool samples may also help detect pancreatic cancer. The researchers extracted DNA from stool samples of both pancreatic cancer patients and healthy individuals. By doing this, they were able to determine which genes’ expression was disproportionately found in pancreatic cancer patients’ specimens.

The two DNA changes of highest interest to the researchers were methylated BMP3 and mutated K-Ras. K-Ras mutations are known to occur in the vast majority of pancreatic cancer cases, and methylated BMP3 had been previously identified to play a role in other cancer types, and be detectable in patients’ stool samples. Encouragingly, the authors found that both methylated BMP3 and mutated K-Ras were present in a significant number of pancreatic cancer stool samples and this led to highly accurate identification of pancreatic cancer. Further testing will be necessary to determine the value of this test as a noninvasive method to detect pancreatic cancer.

For more information about this study or other questions about pancreatic cancer diagnosis or treatment, please contact a Pancreatic Cancer Action Network Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) Associate toll-free at 877-272-6226 or email pals@pancan.org. PALS Associates are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.

Click here for the Mayo Clinic press release.

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