Medical scientists have discovered a new way to detect pancreatic cancer early enough, before any symptoms start to come up. According to a recent study in Nature Medicine, diagnosing pancreatic cancer can be very difficult at first because unlike other cancers, its tumor cannot be felt with the hands until it is fully advanced and severe enough to be deadly. And the reason for this is not far-fetched: the pancreas is located deep within the human.
Given the new discovery of detecting pancreatic cancer early enough in the blood system, it is estimated that about 46,000 Americans will be diagnosed early of pancreatic cancer which could have been responsible for 40,000 deaths this year alone. And according to Dr. Brian Wolpin of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, “most people with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) – by far the most common form of pancreatic cancer – are diagnosed after the disease has reached an advanced stage, and many die within a year of diagnosis. Detecting the disease earlier in its development may improve our ability to treat it successfully.”
The pancreatic cancer medical research team collected blood samples from over 1,500 people and analysed about 100 compounds that are generated from the breakdown of food intakes. The metabolites from one group in the study which later had pancreatic cancer were found to be higher in blood branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), while the second group that did not develop pancreatic cancer was found to have fewer metabolites or BCAA, an essential nutrient that is processed by the body from food proteins.
In the final analysis, the researchers found that BCAA was evidenced in the bloodstream of patients that had pancreatic cancer 2-25 years before they came down with the disease. Furthermore, it was also found that increase in amino acids could generate from a breakdown in muscle tissues, thereby making more amino acids than is necessary become available in the blood to trigger the possibility of pancreatic cancer in those susceptible to the disease. And to drive home the importance of this research, Dr. Mathew Vander Heiden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirms that “this work has the potential to spur progress in detecting pancreatic tumors earlier and identifying new treatment strategies for those with the disease.”