Study identifies protein biomarker for improved diagnosis of pancreatic cancer


A research initiative undertaken by researchers at the Queen Mary University of London has led to identification of a protein that could find use in the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. The protein called pentraxin 3 may be a biological measure for pancreatic cancer, which has the ability to differentiate between pancreatic cancer and other non-cancerous conditions in the pancreas, says the findings of the new study.

Primarily funded by the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Research UK, and Barts Charity, the findings of the research is published in npj Precision Oncology.

Elaborately, for the study, researchers computed PTX3 levels in serum blood samples of patients with pancreatic cancer, patients with non-cancerous conditions of the pancreas, and healthy volunteers. This led to the finding protein levels to be significantly higher in serum samples of those with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) – the most common type of pancreatic cancer.

Furthermore, patients with PDAC had notably higher levels of PTX3 than those with chronic pancreatitis or intra-ductal papillary mucinous neoplasm. Clinically, the latter two are non-cancerous conditions that often manifest symptoms similar to PDAC, thus, making definitive diagnosis of PDAC more difficult.

Meanwhile, for investigation of pancreatic cancer, computerized tomography (CT) scanning is usually used. While CT scan can detect the presence of pancreatic cancer, it lacks the ability to differentiate between pancreatic cancer and non-cancerous pancreatic diseases. This poses frequent dilemmas in clinical practice, and currently, there are no clinically applicable biomarkers for the early detection of PDAC.

“Importantly, the study represents a clinically relevant cohort with translational significance thanks to generous donation of samples from patients in Verona, London, and Milan. Collaboration between an international group of cancer biologists, oncologists, surgeons, and other experts made the research possible.”

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