New risk test for pancreatic cancer

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Researchers are developing risk tests for pancreatic cancer

In the future, the aim is to use novel test methods to be able to record the genetic risk of a disease of pancreatic cancer. Researchers from Greifswald and Rostock are currently working intensively on a corresponding first genetic risk test.

Greifswald and Rostock scientists Greifswald and Rostock scientists are currently working under high pressure to develop a first genetic risk test for pancreatitis (pancreatitis) and the rare but very dangerous pancreatic cancer (pancreatic carcinoma). This was announced by Greifswald's Director of Internal Medicine A at University Medicine, Professor Markus M. Lerch. The project of the Universities of Greifswald and Rostock, as well as the Rostock biotechnology company Centogene, which specializes in gene diagnostics, from the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the EU, is being funded with a good one million euros.

Inferring risk from blood test The scientists want to identify biomarkers for acute and chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic carcinoma in the research project, which will run until the end of 2014, and develop diagnostic tests. There is hope that a simple blood test can be used to draw conclusions about the risk of illness in order to be able to recommend preventive examinations to potential risk patients in good time.

Risk factors smoking and alcohol abuse In Germany, around 50,000 to 60,000 people develop pancreatitis every year and around 12,000 pancreatic cancer, which is considered to be very dangerous. Professor Lerch explained that the average life expectancy after cancer diagnosis with optimal therapy would be two to three years. Smoking and alcohol abuse are the biggest risk factors for the disease. “Nevertheless, it often happens that perfectly healthy people fall ill with the pancreas. Obviously, genetic factors that cannot be influenced play a role as triggers, Ulrich Weiss, one of the project managers from Greifswald.

Finding out genetically caused causes The scientists therefore assume that genetic factors that cannot be influenced could play a role as triggers. “It is our job to find out these genetically caused causes. The basis for this are around 1,000 Greifswald University medicine patients who have been treated for pancreatic disease in recent years, ”says Prof. Markus M. Lerch. With new analysis methods, so-called next-generation sequencing technology, hundreds of genes or entire genomes could be examined and previously unknown gene mutations identified. The Rostock company Centogene, which specializes in genetic and biochemical analyzes, already uses such methods. This is also intended to identify the biomarkers that are responsible for pancreatic diseases.

For a long time without complaints or symptoms A risk of pancreatic cancer is that it does not cause any complaints or symptoms for a long time and is discovered late. In over 50 percent of those affected by pancreatic cancer, metastases can already be found in other parts of the body when they are discovered. Around 70 percent of carcinomas develop in the pancreatic head. The main symptom of pancreatic carcinoma is the steadily increasing painless jaundice (jaundice) that is not accompanied by colic, which is caused by narrowing of the bile duct. Yellow eyes, which is a sign of yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes and dermis of the eyes (sclera), are typical signs of jaundice. Other common but uncharacteristic symptoms of pancreatic cancer are weight loss and abdominal pain radiating to the back. (ad)

Image: Andreas Dengs, /

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Video: Diagnosing Pancreatic Tumors and Cysts - Mayo Clinic

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