Microfluidic technology reveals potential biomarker for early pancreatic cancer

Researchers capture circulating pancreas cells in the bloodstream during early stages of pancreatic cancer

Dr. Andrew Rhim

Dr. Andrew Rhim

Cancer cells are on the move in the bloodstream in the very early stage of pancreatic cancer, and can be detected before cancer is diagnosed.

Working with a state-of-the art microfluidic device, cancer researchers have been able to capture circulating pancreas epithelial cells in 33 percent of patients with early pancreatic lesions. The patients had no clinical diagnosis of cancer.

The findings, published in Gastroenterology, suggest that circulating pancreas cells (CPCs) seed the bloodstream before tumors can be detected using current clinical tests such as CT and MRI scans. This detection of pancreas cells in the blood may be an early sign of cancer.

“While there is much work that still needs to be done, there is great potential for using this technology to identify who is most at risk for developing pancreatic cancer,” says lead author Andrew Rhim, M.D., an assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System  and gastroenterologist at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s  Multidisciplinary Pancreatic Cancer Clinic. Continue reading