Type 2 diabetes as an early stage indicator of pancreatic cancer

A prospective study establishing the success of a new blood test in diagnosing pancreatic cancer early.

What is the study?

This project is a prospective study (following patients to see if they contract a disease), in partnership with the South East Cancer Alliance, to identify patients with diabetes who may be at risk of pancreatic cancer.

Any patient in the study area (Bromley) diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the previous two years who are not overweight or have experienced significant weight loss will be considered eligible for the study. These patients will be offered an experimental blood test and CT scan for possible pancreatic cancer.

There are approximately 1.67 million people living in the study area who will be recorded on GP databases. The database will be reviewed, and new patients invited to take part in the study every three months over the period of one year. Patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and those without the disease can then be compared to look for differences in their diabetes control, symptoms or management that could be unique to pancreatic cancer and help identify future patients at an early stage.

All patients will also be offered a blood test from Immunovia designed to look at proteins in the blood that confirm a patient has pancreatic cancer. It is the first time that the blood test will have been used in primary care and if effective could provide a simple screening test for pancreatic cancer to increase early diagnosis and make it simpler for patients and health care professionals.

Why carry out research in this area?

This work aims to build on the project detailed above. The link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer is becoming increasingly well understood and this audit aims to demonstrate that patients with new onset diabetes without weight gain should be referred for rapid testing to diagnose pancreatic cancer early.

The addition of the blood test may help to identify more reliable biomarkers for pancreatic cancer within this group that may help to guide referrals.

How will this research benefit patients?

This study can draw on results of the first project and test if conclusions are accurate and apply to a real-world setting. If successful, the study will increase early diagnosis in patients with new onset diabetes without associated weight gain. This will have an immediate benefit for patients and could then be rolled out on a national scale.

The projects together could help to identify a tangible early diagnosis benefit for patients with pancreatic cancer. Evidence varies but between 50-80% of patients have at least impaired glucose at diagnosis and identifying these patients at the point of glucose impairment could offer an opportunity for diagnosis as much as 36 months earlier.