Pancreatic cancer is notoriously famous for being a merciless killer, but the reality is that our current inability to diagnose it early is what makes it so intractable. Earlier diagnosis would allow therapies to be initiated before the cancer becomes untreatable.
Researchers at University of California, San Diego may have just developed a blood test that can indicate whether certain biomarkers that point to pancreatic cancer are present. The test is fast and fairly easy to perform, and may end up providing months of advanced notice while pancreatic cancer is still developing.
The research team are using a special electronic chip that allows them to separate exosomes, tiny vesicles that can carry within them biomarkers arising from tumors or other sources of disease. Exosomes are so small and difficult to separate from the rest of a given biological fluid that their presence was barely noticed for many decades. This challenge has continued, limiting their use in clinical applications.
The UC San Diego researchers managed to develop a technology that avoids typical preparation processes and picks out exosomes directly from whole blood. This happens in a matter of minutes and the exosomes remain intact and their cargoes ready to be analyzed.
While this technology has great potential for pancreatic cancer detection, it should also be applicable for diagnosing and monitoring a wide variety of other cancers and diseases.