Early pancreatic biomarker could spot killer disease

The diagnosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), a form of pancreatic cancer, is difficult and often the disease isn't spotted until it's advanced, meaning that patients have a low chance of surviving to 5 years after diagnosis--as little as 3%. University of California researchers have found a biomarker, PEAK1, that helps the cancer to grow and metastasize. This could help to spot the disease earlier, as well as being a potential target for drug development.

The researchers looked at a large online database of gene expression profiles, and then validated their findings by matching levels of PEAK1 in patient biopsy samples and in mouse models.

'"We found that a kinase called PEAK1 is turned on very early in pancreatic cancer," said first author Jonathan Kelber, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of California San Diego Department of Pathology and Moores Cancer Center. "This protein was clearly detected in biopsies of malignant tumors from human patients--at the gene and the protein levels--as well as in mouse models."

"Survival rates for patients with pancreatic cancer remain low," said Michael Bouvet at Moores Cancer Center. "Therefore, earlier detection and novel treatment strategies are very important if we are going to make any progress against pancreatic cancer."

- read the press release
- check out the abstract in Cancer Researcher