ASU Research Could Save Lives

cancer_cellsPancreatic cancer is known as the silent killer because it displays no obvious symptoms in its early stages, and then aggressively attacks the body making it exceedingly difficult to treat. But researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have developed a way to detect this deadly form of cancer early using a new type of blood test.

From the ASU website:

Pancreatic cancer, one of the nation’s deadliest diseases, kills 80 percent of those diagnosed within one year, but an ASU researcher has devised an early detection technique that could improve those odds.

Biomedical engineering professor Tony Hu, of the Biodesign Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, and colleagues, in research published online by the journal Nature: Biomedical Engineering, describe a method for finding tiny bubbles of material called extracellular vesicles, which can identify pancreatic cancer in its initial stages.

According to, the blood test can “spot pancreatic cancer before it spreads.”

In a pilot study of 59 people with the disease, the test picked up early-stage pancreatic cancer in more than 90 per cent of cases.

The study also involved 48 healthy people and 48 people with pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition that can be difficult to distinguish from pancreatic cancer using existing methods like ultrasound. The test, however, could tell the difference.

Pancreatic cancer is now the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., surpassing breast cancer. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) wants to double the survival rate by 2020. PanCan put together a short video on that goal and how it can be reached. You can watch it by clicking here or on the picture below.


This new research, being done right here in Arizona, may also help more people survive pancreatic cancer. Larger trials are now being planned and the test may still be a few years away from approval, but as CTV News pointed out, “the discovery has the potential to improve the early detection, treatment and monitoring of pancreatic cancer and of other cancers and infections.”

Share your thoughts on this groundbreaking work and how it could change the lives of so many people here in Arizona and across the world. This is another example of some of the extraordinary research being done in our state. The type of research that will drive better health and help us to one day reach our goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!


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