May 27, 2024
Pancreatic Cancer Therapeutics and Diagnostics

Innovative Approaches to Pancreatic Cancer Diagnostics: From Biomarkers to Imaging Techniques

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers with a low survival rate. However, ongoing research and developments in therapeutics and diagnostics promise better outcomes for patients. This article discusses the latest in pancreatic cancer treatment and detection approaches.

Understanding Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach that helps in digestion and regulates blood sugar. The two main types are exocrine and neuroendocrine pancreatic cancers. Exocrine cancer, also known as adenocarcinoma, accounts for about 95% of pancreatic cancer cases. Some key facts about pancreatic cancer include:

– It has no early symptoms and often spreads before being detected. Less than 20% of patients are candidates for surgery at diagnosis.

– Risk factors include age, smoking, obesity, family history, chronic pancreatitis and certain genetic conditions.

– The five-year survival rate is 11% and has seen little improvement over the past few decades due to late detection and limited treatment options.

However, advances in research aim to change these dismal statistics. Let’s explore the progress being made in pancreatic cancer therapeutics and diagnostics.

Developments in Therapeutics

Surgery remains the only potentially curative treatment if the cancer is detected early before it spreads. For late-stage disease, chemotherapy and radiation therapy offer palliative benefits. Scientists are pursuing several new therapeutic avenues:

– Targeted Therapy: Drugs that target specific gene mutations driving cancer growth are yielding promising results. Therapies targeting KRAS, an often mutated gene in pancreatic cancer, show potential.

– Immunotherapy: These drugs harness the immune system to fight cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors have shown response in a subset of patients. Combination therapies are being explored.

– Nanoparticle Therapy: Nanoparticles loaded with chemotherapy drugs can specifically target pancreatic tumors for local drug delivery while limiting systemic side effects.

– Microtubule Inhibitors: Drugs like eribulin work by disrupting the microtubule structure in cancer cells. They may benefit patients who have progressed on standard chemo.

– PARP Inhibitors: Especially for cancers with BRCA mutations, these drugs inhibit DNA repair in cancer cells. Olaparib trials show responses.

Clinical trials continue to evaluate new drug regimens, combinations and sequencing of existing therapies to maximize efficacy. Precision medicine approaches tailor treatments based on individual cancer biomarkers.

Improving Diagnosis

While screening tests can detect other cancers early, there is no reliable screening for pancreatic cancer yet due to its subtle and non-specific initial symptoms. Currently, diagnosis involves:

Imaging Tests

– CT or MRI detects pancreatic abnormalities. Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) provides high-resolution images.

– PET scans identify metastasis by tumor metabolism.

Biopsies

– EUS-guided biopsy samples tumors for analysis. Surgery provides pathology specimen for staging.

Biomarkers

– Blood markers like CA19-9 are elevated in most pancreatic cancers but not specific enough for population screening.

Genetic Testing

– For patients with family history or known mutations, germline genetic testing identifies inherited cancer genes.

Research aims to develop:

– Blood-based screening tests that detect tumor DNA for early diagnosis.

– Non-invasive imaging methods like contrast-enhanced MRI to identify tiny tumors.

– Artificial intelligence analysis of medical scans to enhance diagnostic accuracy.

– Molecular biomarkers with higher sensitivity and specificity for screening.

*Note:
1.      Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2.      We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it