Researchers at the University of Liverpool have received funding from Cancer Research UK to devise approaches that could help diagnose pancreatic cancer early.
The £2.17m funding will be utilised to find biomarkers that could aid in identifying people who could benefit from further cancer tests.
As part of the research, the team will obtain blood samples from approximately 2,500 people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes.
Differences between samples of patients who later develop the cancer and those who don’t will be analysed. The researchers will work to identify the required biomarkers from these samples.
The study will be based on the understanding that 65% of people with pancreatic cancer have diabetes mellitus at the time of their cancer diagnosis.
In nearly 50% of such cases, the patients were observed to have developed this diabetes on average 13 months prior to the identification of their cancer.
The main objective of the new research is to potentially facilitate screening for pancreatic cancer in people with new-onset diabetes.
University of Liverpool lead investigator professor Eithne Costello said: “This funding from Cancer Research UK is vitally important to help us make great strides forward to developing a diagnostic test to identify pancreatic cancer earlier.
“So scientists believe new-onset diabetes is an early warning sign of the presence of pancreatic cancer, and individuals with new-onset diabetes are the largest high-risk group for pancreatic cancer.”
Statistics show that nearly 8,700 people die due to pancreatic cancer every year in the UK. Out of ten patients, eight are diagnosed after the disease spreads, thereby limiting treatment options.
Early detection of the cancer is expected to improve outcomes in these patients.
The Cancer Research UK team will collaborate with researchers in Europe and the US who are working on similar patient groups.
Samples from the research will be retained in a biobank in order to enable additional studies that could help in future research.