CAMPAIGNERS IN Yorkshire have welcomed a new early-stage screening for pancreatic cancer which could potentially save hundreds of lives.
Scientists have developed a simple urine test that could help detect the disease, with researchers saying they have identified three proteins which give an early warning of the disease, with more than 90 per cent accuracy.
The discovery could lead to a non-invasive, inexpensive test to screen people at high risk of developing the disease.
A team at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, found that the three-protein “signature” can identify the most common form of pancreatic cancer when still in its early stages and distinguish between this cancer and the inflammatory condition chronic pancreatitis - which can be hard to tell apart.
Lead researcher Dr Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic said: “We’ve always been keen to develop a diagnostic test in urine as it has several advantages over using blood.
“It’s an inert and far less complex fluid than blood and can be repeatedly and non-invasively tested. We’re hopeful that a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years.”
Co-author and director of Barts Cancer Institute, Professor Nick Lemoine, said the findings could make a “big difference” to survival rates.
He added: “With pancreatic cancer, patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage, but if diagnosed at stage 2, the survival rate is 20 per cent, and at stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumours can increase up to 60 per cent.”
Chief Executive for South Yorkshire support group Cavendish Care Chris Farrell said: “Early detection is key to living well with cancer. In terms of what we do, we support cancer patients and their families, providing them with a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings as they cope with the disease.
“This test is fantastic news in that more people can find out earlier and in a less invasive way, making living and dealing with their cancer far more manageable.
“It means we can work with people from a much earlier stage, helping to guide them through in the best possible way.”
Cavendish Care is just one of many support groups in Yorkshire whose efforts would be made more effective with the introduction of this sort of test.
Founder and CEO of Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Maggie Blanks, said: “This is an exciting finding and we hope to see this research taken forward into a much-needed early diagnostic test.
“Early diagnosis is an important part of our overall efforts against this aggressive cancer, alongside developing new treatments to tackle the disease once diagnosis is made. It underlines the importance of increased research efforts to help improve survival rates.”
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate of any common cancer, which has barely improved in 40 years. Only 3 per cent of patients are alive five years after diagnosis.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, looked at urine samples from patients known to have pancreatic cancer, patients with chronic pancreatitis and also healthy volunteers.
Three proteins - LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1 - were selected for closer examination, because patients with pancreatic cancer were found to have increased levels of each of the three proteins, while patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis had significantly lower levels than cancer patients.