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Blood test to spot pancreatic cancer comes closer

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New York: Researchers, including one of the Indian-origin, have found a blood test effective in detecting pancreatic cancer in human patients.

By detecting tiny spheres of fat called vesicles or exosomes shed by the tumours, the scientists were able to distinguishing healthy participants and patients with a benign pancreatic disease from patients with early-and late-stage pancreatic cancer.

The results suggest that a protein encoded by the gene glypican-1 (GPC1) present on cancer exosomes may be used as part of a potential non-invasive diagnostic and screening tool to detect early pancreatic cancer, potentially at a stage amenable to surgical treatment.

“GPC1+ crExos were detected in small amounts of serum from about 250 patients with pancreatic cancer with absolute specificity and sensitivity, importantly distinguishing patients with chronic pancreatitis from those with early-and late-stage pancreatic cancer,” said Raghu Kalluri from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Exosomes — tiny virus-sized particles released by cancer cells, contain DNA, RNA and proteins.

The scientists isolated and monitored GPC1-enriched circulating exosomes from the blood of pancreatic cancer patients, termed GPC1+ crExos.

Levels of GPC1+ crExos were significantly lower in patients following surgical removal of the tumour, Kalluri said.

The study also found that GPC1+ crExos detected the possibility of pancreatic cancer in mouse models of pancreatic cancer at a time when the mice showed no signs of pancreatic disease by MRI.

“Routine screening of the general population for pancreatic cancer using MRIs or CTs would be prohibitively expensive with the likelihood for many false positives,” another researcher David Piwnica-Worms said.

“Our study suggests the potential for GPC1+ crExos as a detection and monitoring tool for pancreatic cancer in combination with imaging, with an emphasis on its application in early detection.”

Pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages.

“This presents an unprecedented opportunity for informative early detection of pancreatic cancer and in designing potential curative surgical options,” Kalluri said.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature.

Health

China coronavirus toll reaches 908, 40,171 infected

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Beijing: The death toll due to the novel coronavirus in China on Monday increased to 908, with 40,171 confirmed cases, the country’s National Health Commission said.

Until midnight, 6,484 severe cases had been recorded while 3,281 people, who had recovered from the illness, had been discharged, Efe news reported citing the Commission as saying.

As of now, 399,487 patients in close contact with the infected have been traced, out of which 187,518 are under observation, according to the Chinese agency.

Among those under observation, 23,589 were suspected of having contracted the virus.

The latest figures indicate an increase of 97 deaths over the previous day – when 632 people were also discharged – and 3,062 new infections.

Of the 97 deaths, 91 were recorded in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan – the epicentre of the outbreak -, and which has been under de facto quarantine since January 23.

It total, 2,618 of the 3,062 new coronavirus cases have been detected in Hubei.

Until now, all deaths but one – which occurred in the Philippines – have been in China, which accounts for about 99 per cent of those infected, although about 20 countries have confirmed cases.

The virus has already claimed more lives than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Despite both the novel coronavirus and SARS originating in China, the geographical distribution of deaths is radically different.

SARS emerged in the southern Guangzhou province, while the coronavirus appears to have originated from a seafood market in the central-eastern city of Wuhan.

With SARS, 349 people died in mainland China, 299 in Hong Kong, 43 in Canada, 37 in Taiwan and 33 in Singapore, to mention only the most affected places, according to the figures from WHO.

Coronavirus has spread to at least 27 other countries and territories.

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