A blood test used on sample tissues to detect early stage pancreatic cancer is showing encouraging results and one day may lead to improved detection and treatment of the disease in high-risk individuals.
Immunomedics, a New Jersey biopharmaceutical company, says it has developed a blood test based on its humanized antibody, clivatuzumab, that correctly identified nearly two-thirds of patients with early stage pancreatic cancer.
Dr. David V. Gold, Director of Laboratory Administration and Senior Member of the Garden State Cancer Center in Morris Plains, NJ, developed the first antibody form of clivatuzumab. He presented the findings to the media at the 2012 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco. A scientific presentation is scheduled for January 20, 2012.
Dr. Gold said early detection, in addition to better therapeutics, is urgently needed for patients with pancreatic cancer.
"Pancreatic cancer symptoms are vague, and the disease tends to develop and grow silently. By the time it is detected, it has often spread to other parts of the body, making it nearly impossible to cure. These study results are extremely encouraging.”
Advances in cancer screening and treatment have prevented more than one million cancer deaths and contributed to the lowering of cancer death rates, according to recent cancer statistics from the American Cancer Society.
However the lack of early detection and effective treatments for pancreatic cancer have resulted in a dismal five-year survival rate of only 2 percent for patients diagnosed with advanced disease. Most of these patients die within six months of diagnosis. Men and women are equally affected by pancreatic cancer.
At present, there is no test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the detection and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
In the study, the blood test measuring levels of a protein called PAM4 correctly identified patients with pancreatic cancer 76 percent of the time. When combined with another tumor marker called CA19-9 — commonly tested in blood specimens to monitor pancreatic cancer progression — the rate improved to 85 percent with relatively low false-positive results.
According to the company, the combination of clivatuzumab and CA19-9 significantly improved the detection of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) as compared to use of either marker alone.
For patients with stage-1, early disease, the test accurately identified two-thirds (64 percent) and up to half of pancreatic tumors in specific areas of the body previously difficult to detect, such as near the liver and small intestine.
Detection of these cancers was not unexpected since these tissues are derived from closely related organs in early embryonic development, Dr. Gold said.
He plans to extend his study to screen for the presence of early stage of tumor growth in individuals at high risk for pancreatic cancer, such as patients with chronic pancreatitis, with a history of familial pancreatic cancer, or new-onset diabetes in people over age 50.
Lynette Summerill, an award-winning writer and scuba enthusiast lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.
Cancer Facts and Figures 2011. American Cancer Society. Accessed online18 January 2012 at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-029771.pdf
Annual Report: More than a million cancer deaths avoided in 2 Decades. American Cancer Society. Accessed 18 January 2012 at:
Immunomedics Reports Clivatuzumab-Based Blood Test Highly Sensitive and Specific for Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer Detection. Market Watch. 18 January 2012. Accessed at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/immunomedics-reports-clivatuzumab-based-blood-test-highly-sensitive-and-specific-for-early-stage-pancreatic-cancer-detection-2012-01-18
Reviewed January 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith