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, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
Exosomes - tiny, virus-sized particles released by cancer cells, contain DNA, RNA and proteins. Scientists isolated and monitored GPC1-enriched circulating exosomes from the blood of pancreatic cancer patients, termed GPC1+ crExos. The study examined crExos from healthy donors and breast and pancreatic cancer patients. Elevated GPC1+ crExos were seen in both cancers.
GPC1+ crExos appear to be a more reliable screening tool than the commonly used CA 19-9 biomarker. The study 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.
If detected early, surgery involving a pancreatico-duodenectomy or the Whipple procedure can be curative for pancreatic cancer patients. Since pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages, only about 15 percent of patients qualify for the surgery.
This research presents an unprecedented opportunity for early detection of pancreatic cancer and in designing potential curative surgical options.
Based on material originally posted by University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.