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Ann Transl Med. 2016 Apr;4(7):134. doi: 10.21037/atm.2016.03.44.

Non-invasive biomarkers in pancreatic cancer diagnosis: what we need versus what we have.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital Donostia/Biodonostia Institute, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Enfermedades Hepáticas y Digestivas (CIBERehd), Universidad del País Vasco UPV/EHU, San Sebastian, Spain.


Pancreatic cancer (PC) is probably the most lethal tumor being forecast as the second most fatal cancer by 2020 in developed countries. Only the earliest forms of the disease are a curable disease but it has to be diagnosed before symptoms starts. Detection at curable phase demands screening intervention for early detection and differential diagnosis. Unfortunately, no successful strategy or image technique has been concluded as effective approach and currently non-invasive biomarkers are the hope. Multiple translational research studies have explored minimally or non-invasive biomarkers in biofluids-blood, urine, stool, saliva or pancreatic juice, but diagnostic performance has not been validated yet. Nowadays no biomarker, alone or in combination, has been superior to carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9) in sensitivity and specificity. Although the number of novel biomarkers for early diagnosis of PC has been increasing during the last couple of years, no molecular signature is ready to be implemented in clinical routine. Under the uncertain future, miRNAs profiling and methylation status seem to be the most promising biomarkers. However, good results in larger validations are urgently needed before application. Industry efforts through biotech and pharmaceutical companies are urgently required to demonstrate accuracy and validate promising results from basic and translational results.


Biomarker; early detection; pancreatic cancer (PC); sensitivity; specificity

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