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World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Aug 28;20(32):11241-8. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i32.11241.

Advances in pancreatic cancer research: moving towards early detection.

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Xiang-Yi He, Yao-Zong Yuan, Department of Gastroenterology, Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200025, China.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most lethal forms of cancer. Substantial progress has been made in the understanding of the biology of pancreatic cancer, and advances in patient management have been significant. However, most patients (nearly 80%) who present with locally advanced or metastatic disease have an extremely poor prognosis. Survival is better for those with malignant disease localized to the pancreas, because surgical resection at present offers the only chance of cure. Therefore, the early detection of pancreatic cancer may benefit patients with PDAC. However, its low rate of incidence and the limitations of current screening strategies make early detection difficult. Recent advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of PDAC suggest that it is possible to detect PDAC in early stages and even identify precursor lesions. The presence of new-onset diabetes mellitus in the early phase of pancreatic cancer may provide clues for its early diagnosis. Advances in the identification of novel circulating biomarkers including serological signatures, autoantibodies, epigenetic markers, circulating tumor cells and microRNAs suggest that they can be used as potential tools for the screening of precursors and early stage PDAC in the future. However, proper screening strategies based on effective screening methodologies need to be tested for clinical application.


Diabetes mellitus; Early detection; Pancreatic cancer; Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

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