Scientists may be able to detect pancreatic cancer by looking at micro-organisms in stool samples, according to new research.
The study, part-funded by Worldwide Cancer Research, found that 27 microbial species in stool samples could pinpoint people at high risk of the most common form of pancreatic cancer, raising hopes of a new screening test.
The 27 microbes, which were mostly bacteria, could distinguish well between people without cancer and those with the disease, both in advanced and early stages.
The microbiome, which is the collection of fungi, bacteria and viruses that live inside our bodies, is known to interact with the immune system.
Pancreatic cancer is deadly and can be very difficult to treat, with only about one in four people surviving one year or more after diagnosis.
The study, published in the journal Gut, involved 136 people, including 57 with pancreatic cancer (25 early stage and 32 advanced), 50 without cancer acting as controls, and 29 patients with chronic pancreatitis, where the pancreas has become permanently damaged by inflammation.
Experts from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory concluded it is “feasible” for a screening program to be developed using stool samples that may help pick up pancreatic cancer.
A patent has been applied for development of a pancreatic cancer diagnostic kit that detects the micro-organisms in stool samples in a rapid way.