According to new research published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have identified a biomarker in the blood that may indicate early development of pancreatic cancer. The researchers wanted to determine whether pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) causes changes in how the body utilizes energy and nutrients, and whether these changes could be identified in the blood before being diagnosed with the disease.
The researchers analyzed blood samples from 1,500 patients that were involved with health-monitoring studies. They found that the patients who were later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had elevated levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) in the blood compared with those who did not go on to develop pancreatic cancer. BCAAs are nutrients essential to life that the body extracts from proteins in foods.
The elevated BCAA levels were detected 2-25 years prior to being diagnosed with the disease and was found to be caused by a breakdown in muscle tissue. Furthermore, they found that patients with high levels of BCAAs detected many years before diagnosis of pancreatic cancer were at highest risk for developing the disease.
Pancreatic cancer will be diagnosed in more than 46,000 Americans this year and will be responsible for almost 40,000 deaths. Now, researchers claim they have identified a marker in the blood that may indicate early development of the disease, paving the way for an early detection test. The research team, including co-senior author Dr. Brian Wolpin, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, publish their findings in the journal Nature Medicine.