In France, there were 14,184 new cases of pancreatic cancer in 2018, 51% of which were in men, according to theNational Cancer Institute. In 80 to 90% of cases, the disease is diagnosed at a late stage, according to the website of the Vidala French medical book for health professionals.
Pancreatic cancer: the challenge of screening for early diagnosis
The reason is that this cancer can go without symptoms for a long time. Abdominal or back pain, jaundice, weight loss, fatigue usually appear when the cancer is incurable.
The issue of early detection is therefore very important and many researchers are working on it. A study, published in the journal Scientific progress on March 17, 2023, presents a new clue: biomarkers that can distinguish pancreatic cysts likely to develop into pancreatic cancer.
“Pancreatic cancer is on the rise and if the current situation continues, it will become the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States within a few years. (a similar estimate was made for France, editor’s note)explains Peter Allen, one of the authors, in a communique. We focused on precancerous cysts, known as intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasia (IPMN). Most IPMNs will never develop into pancreatic cancer, but by distinguishing between those that do, we can prevent the development of this incurable disease.“.
Biomarkers show risk of pancreatic cysts
During their work, the authors focused on certain areas of these cysts and areas of abnormal cell growth. Thus, they identified a large number of genetic mutations that promote or limit the development of pancreatic cancer, as well as various biomarkers according to the risks of IPMN. Biomarkers are chemicals whose presence in the body makes it possible to diagnose or track a disease, in this case pancreatic cancer.
“We found very different biomarkers for high-grade cellular abnormalities, as well as slow-growing subtypes”, explains Peter Allen. Now scientists are working to better identify these biomarkers to eventually provide a screening test to identify cysts at risk and therefore remove them long before the disease develops.
A breakthrough that could be big for this still very deadly cancer. In 2018, of the more than 14,100 new cases, there were indeed 11,400 deaths according to the 2022 edition of the Panorama of cancers in France.