We have found that we can take measurements safely in the duodenum and use a biological phenomenon called the field effect to our advantage, he said. If you have a precancerous or cancerous lesion in the pancreas, even tissue that looks normal and is away from the lesion -- including in the duodenum, a different organ than the pancreas -- will have molecular and other kinds of abnormal changes. No one can detect these changes earlier than we can.
To test the effectiveness of the technology in screening for pancreatic cancer, Backman and Liu have been collaborating with Randall E. Brand, M.D., a gastroenterologist with Evanston Northwestern Healthcare who specializes in pancreatic cancer and is an associate professor of medicine at Northwesterns Feinberg School of Medicine. They have shown that they can detect changes in the duodenal tissue and that these optical markers predict the presence of cancer.
The researchers found that the same optical markers that were significant in earlier colon cancer studies at ENH using Backmans technology proved also to be significant for pancreatic cancer. An optical marker is a signature at the sub-micro level that shows changes in tissue due to the presence of a precancerous lesion or cancer.
We also found that the diagnostic performance of the technique is not compromised by risk factors in the patients, said Liu, now a senior scientist at Johnson & Johnson. The markers dont depend on age -- the cells know if they are old or if they are cancerous. The markers do not change if the patient is a smoker. And the markers do not change with the location, stage or size of the tumor in the pancreas.