A bunch of proteins that signal early pancreatic cancer in mice have been identified by scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. This may pave the way for identifying cancer markers in humans as well.
The researchers say that their findings may bring scientists a significant step closer to developing a blood test to detect the disease early, when cure rates are highest.
Using a well-characterized mouse model of pancreatic cancer the researchers identified a panel of five proteins selected on the basis of their increased level at an early stage of tumour development in the mouse and tested them in a blinded study in 26 humans from the CARET (Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial) cohort.
The panel of proteins discriminated pancreatic cancer cases from matched controls in blood specimens obtained between 7 and 13 months prior to the development of symptoms and clinical diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Although further validation will be needed, these results indicate that mouse models of cancer, in combination with in-depth proteomic analysis, could help identify candidate markers in human cancer and potentially be used for early detection, say the researchers.
The study appears in PLoS Medicine.