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The dreaded pancreatic cancer, which is often detected at a late stage resulting in poor prognosis and limited treatment options, may now be nipped in the bud.
Researchers at The Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg have developed a method which identifies the cancer's visible precursors with 97 per cent certainty.
The method, which is expected to aid in the early discovery of the cancer as well as minimise the risk of unnecessary surgery, may be introduced in patient care within five years, the researchers hoped.
In pancreatic cancer - where only five per cent of the patients survive five years after the diagnosis - tumours often develop unnoticed and rarely cause symptoms until they have spread to other organs.
Recent studies, however, have shown that fluid-filled compartments in the pancreas, called cysts, may be precursors of the cancer.
The new method can predict with 97 per cent certainty which pancreatic cysts constitute precursors to cancer.
With this method, which detects the presence of mucus protein - mucins - in the cystic fluid, the researchers were able to reach the correct diagnosis in 77 of 79 cysts that were examined.
'This is an exceptionally good result for a diagnostic test, and we are very hopeful that the method will enable more instances of early discovery of pancreatic cancer, at a stage when the cancer can be treated or prevented,' said Karolina Jabbar, a PhD student at The Sahlgrenska Academy.
The researchers have also tested the new method in order to analyse existing tumours and, with about 90 per cent certainty, have been able to determine which tumours have already developed into cancers.
This means that the method could also be used to determine which patients require immediate surgery, and when it is instead possible to wait and monitor the development of the cyst.
The article was published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
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