Pancreatic cancer is one of the most fatal cancers in the world, and its incidence and mortality rates are highest in developed countries. The disease typically spreads rapidly to the nearby organs and is seldom detected in its early stages, as its signs and symptoms often don’t occur until the disease is advanced.  Thus, it is of paramount importance to develop a diagnostic tool to detect pancreatic cancer in the earlier stages. The results of liquid biopsy have been promising in this regard.

According to GlobalData epidemiologists, in 2016 in the seven major markets (7MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan), the highest number of diagnosed incident cases of pancreatic cancer was in stage IV. In the 7MM, Japan had the highest number of cases in stage IV, representing 80% of pancreatic cancer cases.

Figure 1:  7MM, diagnosed incident cases of pancreatic cancer by cancer stage at diagnosis, both sexes, ages ≥15 years, n, 2016

Source: GlobalData                                                                                                                                                                                             © GlobalData

Diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in earlier stages is challenging not only due to the lack of signs and symptoms, but also because it often requires invasive tests, and biopsies do not always provide sufficient material to confirm a diagnosis. Liquid biopsy is a diagnostic test for screening for cancer that detects tiny bits of DNA released by cancer cells into blood. The test has had good results for pancreatic cancer, although the number of cancer cases detected is still small. There is a widespread optimism that liquid biopsies could eventually have a significant impact on diagnosis. However, this area of research is still evolving and further research is urgently needed to realise the true potential of liquid biopsy.

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