March 2, 2009

Technique may spot early pancreatic cancer

A U.S. scientist says he's created a technique that can detect the early development of pancreatic cancer, which now has a 5 percent five-year survival rate.

The optical technology developed by Northwestern University Professor Vadim Backman uses an analysis of adjacent tissue in the duodenum to detect the cancer.

Scientists said the promising new technology might help raise the extremely low survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients by aiding early detection.

The technique uses light-scattering techniques to analyze extremely subtle changes in the cells of the duodenum, part of the small intestine neighboring the pancreas. The cells are obtained through minimally invasive endoscopy.

The study shows that cells appearing normal using traditional microscopy show signs of abnormality when examined using the new technique, which provides nanoscale cell analysis.

Typically, by the time a patient is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it is too late for the most successful treatments, said Backman. Our hope is that this technology will provide a better method for early diagnosis of the disease, which could greatly improve the survival rate.

The research is reported in the journal Disease Markers.