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Gut microbes linked to pancreatic cancer

Wednesday March 9th 2022

A specific 'microbial profile' has been found in people with pancreatic cancer, offering hope of improved diagnosis, researchers report today.

The team, at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid, explain that pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is on the rise worldwide, but accurate, non-invasive diagnostic tests are lacking.

They tested stool samples from 57 patients with pancreatic cancer, 50 comparable similar people, and 29 people with chronic pancreatitis.

Analysis showed alterations in faecal microbiome composition which predict disease with high accuracy regardless of disease stage.

In the journal Gut today, they write: "Faecal metagenomic classifiers performed much better than saliva-based classifiers and identified patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma."

This test was based on 27 microbial species, and test performance was further improved when they combined it with a diagnostic biomarker called carbohydrate antigen 19-9.

"Taken together," they write, "our results indicate that non-invasive, robust and specific faecal microbiota-based screening for the early detection of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is feasible."

They also suggest that investigation into these pancreatic cancer-related bacterial species may "provide promising future entry points for disease prevention".

For instance, the role of established risk factors "may be complimented - or sometimes indeed mediated - by alterations in the microbiome".

However, in a commentary, Dr Rachel Newsome of the University of Florida, USA, says the predictive markers "will need to be tested using a prospective cohort before reaching a conclusion on their clinical impact”.

"Whether these bacteria species are functionally implicated in disease progression and treatment responsiveness remains to be investigated," she writes, but concludes that the study: "represents significant progress for non-invasive cancer detection".

Kartal, E. et al. A faecal microbiota signature with high specificity for pancreatic cancer. Gut 9 March 2022 doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-324755

[abstract]

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Gastroenterology | Pharmaceuticals

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