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Urine test 'can detect pancreatic cancer'

07 August 2015 08:47

A urine test could be used to screen people at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer

A urine test could be used to screen people at high risk of developing pancreatic cancer

Early-stage pancreatic cancer could be detected by a simple urine test in the not-so-distant future.

Researchers at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, have identified three proteins - LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1 - which give a warning of the disease, with more than 90% accuracy.

They claim the three-protein "signature" could potentially save hundreds of lives.


Lead researcher Dr Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic says a diagnostic test in urine has several advantages over using blood.

It is an inert and far less complex fluid than blood, she explains, plus it can be repeatedly and non-invasively tested.

The findings show the three proteins can identify the most common form of pancreatic cancer when still in its early stages, as well as distinguishing between the disease and the inflammatory condition chronic pancreatitis.

Pancreatic cancer patients are usually diagnosed when the cancer is already at a terminal stage.

But catching it early can dramatically improve survival rates. If the disease is diagnosed at stage 2, for example, the survival rate is 20%.

At stage 1, the survival rate for patients with very small tumours can increase up to 60%.

Cancer diagnosis does not mean life has to stop.

Patients undergoing treatment can still travel the world thanks to cancer travel insurance, which provides cover for medical expenses.

'Big difference'

Dr Crnogorac-Jurcevic describes the three-protein signature as a biomarker panel with good specificity and sensitivity.

She hopes a simple, inexpensive test can be developed and be in clinical use within the next few years.

The study looked at 488 urine samples - 192 from patients known to have pancreatic cancer, 92 from patients with chronic pancreatitis and 87 from healthy volunteers.

A further 117 samples were from patients with other benign and malignant liver and gall bladder conditions.

Patients with pancreatic cancer were found to have increased levels of each of LYVE1, REG1A and TFF1, while those suffering from chronic pancreatitis had significantly lower levels than cancer patients.

The study was published by the journal Clinical Cancer Research.