Scientists from the UK’s Barts Cancer Institute (BCI) have developed a non-invasive, inexpensive test to screen people at high risk of developing earlystage pancreatic cancer.
The development was driven by the discovery of a combination of three proteins that were found at high levels in urine.
The proteins were deemed capable of accurately detecting the disease, and also distinguishes between this cancer and chronic pancreatitis.
Scientists conducted a study taking 488 urine samples, including 192 from patients known to have pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 from healthy volunteers.
An additional 117 samples from patients with other benign and malignant liver and gall bladder conditions were used for further validation.
Only three proteins called LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1, out of total 1,500 proteins found in the urine samples, were selected for closer examination, based on biological information and performance in statistical analysis.
Pancreatic cancer patients were found to have increased levels of each of the three proteins when compared to urine samples from healthy patients, while patients with chronic pancreatitis had significantly lower levels than cancer patients.
When combined, the three proteins formed a robust panel that can detect patients with stages I-II pancreatic cancer with more than 90% accuracy.
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. It took a while to secure proof of principle funding in 2008 to look at biomarkers in urine, but it’s been worth the wait for these results.
"This is a biomarker panel with good specificity and sensitivity and we’re hopeful that a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years."
The study was funded by the UK charity, the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. The findings were published in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research.
Image: The non-invasive and inexpensive urine screening test distinguishes between pancreatic cancer and chronic pancreatitis. Photo: courtesy of Barts Cancer Institute.