Pancreatic cancer may be detected with a simple intestinal probe
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, USA have found they have been able to detect pancreatic cancer by simply shining a tiny light within the small intestine close to the junction with the pancreas.
The technique called “ Polarisation Gating Spectroscopy” uses an endoscope (a fibre optic probe) which has a light attached to enable measurements of the amount of oxygenated blood as well as the size of blood vessels in the tissue near the duct where the pancreas joins the small intestine. Because growing tumours need a greater supply of blood, normal tissue in the area around the cancer will show evidence of enlarged blood vessels and changes in the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2012 conference, the researchers revealed that such ‘field effects” from the cancer could be measured up to six to ten inches away in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract and likened the technique to a metal detector that beeps louder the closer you get to the cancer.
The study tested the probe on ten patients with pancreatic cancer and nine without and, when testing both the blood vessel diameter and the oxygen levels in the blood, the probe detected pancreatic cancer in all ten pancreatic cancer patients. However the probe was only 63% accurate in determining which of the healthy volunteers did not have pancreatic cancer.
While this shows promise, the study’s authors admit that the scope does need refining. Currently, pancreatic cancer is detected through an imaging CT scan followed by an invasive biopsy and tumours found this way are often at an advanced stage. For the future, this modified endoscopic probe could be used to look for evidence of pancreatic cancer in patients at increased risk with the hope of detecting it at an earlier stage.
See Dr Wallace MD explain the study in this video:
Source: Mayo Clinic, Florida Press Release, 22nd May 2012
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