This goal – detecting pancreatic cancer early enough to successfully
Quality of Life Innovations from the Columbia University Department of Surgery

Pancreatic Cancer: In pursuit of a noninvasive method of screening

The Pancreas Center
Columbia University Medical Center
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At this time, the program is studying whether genetic mutations associated with pancreatic cancer can be detected
in stool samples. According to
Harold Frucht, MD, Program Director, the idea grew from the discovery that DNA
mutations could be detected in the stool of individuals with pre-cancerous and cancerous colon lesions.“We are
now working with the founder of that test to determine whether gene abnormalities associated with pancreatic
cancer can also be identified through fecal testing.”
What if it were possible to devise an easy, noninvasive test to detect
pancreatic cancer in its early stages?
The survival rate associated with pancreatic cancer is lower than
that of any other tumor: at best, 6% survival at five years. Because
screening for pancreatic cancer is invasive, expensive, and not
efficient, the disease is often detected only in its last stages, when it
is almost uniformly fatal.
Early results are very promising, suggesting a high level of sensitivity in identifying certain precancerous
pancreatic lesions such as IPMN (intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm). Continued investigation is underway at
the program to further evaluate this new technique. “If this proves successful, fecal testing would represent the first
noninvasive screening method for pancreatic cancer,” according to Dr. Frucht. “That could mean an
unprecedented improvement in our ability to detect and treat pancreatic cancer.”
Harold Frucht, MD