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More Biospecimens Might Help Address Deadly Cancer

July 24, 2017

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the disease, spreading fast and often resisting chemotherapy. Approximately 3 in 4 patients die within a year of diagnosis, and 9 in 10 die within five years.

Pancreatic cancer is on track to becoming the second most fatal cancer, but that trajectory might change if an early screening test were developed. Unfortunately, there’s only one validated biomarker for the disease – an antigen called CA-19-9, but it is not suitable as a screening marker because of low positive predictive value. Researchers have identified a variety of other candidates for biomarkers, but their work has been hindered by the scarcity of patients and samples, reports Clinical Laboratory News.

“Although the disease is headed to be a major cancer killer at number two by 2030, it’s still quite a rare disease,” Eithne Costello, PhD, a leader in molecular and clinical cancer medicine at the University of Liverpool in the U.K., told the publication. “For any single hospital or laboratory, the number of samples they may have is very low.”

Learn More About Biospecimens

Meanwhile, it can take tens of thousands of subjects to conduct proper validation studies. To amass this number of samples, researchers from the National Institutes of Health have begun building a cohort of 10,000 adults with new onset diabetes (NoD), a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.

About 1 in 125 members of the NoD cohort are likely to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within three years, allowing researchers to create a biobank of clinically annotated specimens, according to Clinical Laboratory News. The hope is that many will be early-stage, and presumably appropriate to help validate any test’s ability to detect the cancer before it progresses.

The iSpecimen Marketplace is aligned with these efforts, working to connect researchers to an ever-larger selection of the specimens they need from the patients they want. These biospecimens span a range of conditions, including cancer, and include annotated samples of blood and other biofluids, solid tissue, and viable cells.

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