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Shining light on pancreatic cancer

engineer Vadim Backman, an NSF CAREER awardee who led the development of the new technologies and is a co-author on the research.

By studying tissue extracted from an area adjacent to the pancreas, the researchers were able to screen all 51 patients with little risk of inflammation or other complications.

While clinical use is perhaps three to five years in the future, and ongoing studies are needed to confirm the results, the researchers hope the tests can eventually be done without the biopsy.

"We were so encouraged by the successes with colon cancer that we decided to drive the research in a new direction. With colon cancer, you have time, even years, to treat it successfully. Unfortunately, for pancreatic cancer it's not only critical to detect it early, or even before it becomes cacnerous, but in many cases it is really the only hope," said Leon Esterowitz, the NSF program officer who has been supporting this research.

Because the study uses tissue samples taken from each patient's duodenum, the uppermost section of the small intestine which can be accessed during endoscopies, doctors could potentially generate earlier diagnoses by examining low-risk patients as part of routine examinations.

The next stages of the pancreatic cancer research trials incorporate some examinations that are biopsy-free and use a shoebox-sized fiber-optic version of the new system, a device now being tested during colonoscopies.

"Besides improving on the technology, we need to determine whether other medical conditions including other cancer types or diseases of the pancreas such as chronic pancreatitis or acute pancreatitis can be distinguished with our technology from pancreatic cancer. It is also important for us to validate our prediction rule on a larger number of pancreatic cancer cases as well as different control groups." said co-author Randall Brand, a gastroenterologist from ENH and an expert on pancreatic cancer.<
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Contact: Josh Chamot
jchamot@nsf.gov
703-292-7730
National Science Foundation
1-Aug-2007


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