New olfactory test for the early detection and diagnosis of pancreatic cancer


Oncotarget published “Scent test using Caenorhabditis elegans to screen for early-stage pancreatic cancer” which reported that although early detection and diagnosis is essential for improving the prognosis of patients with pancreatic cancer, both do have not yet been achieved. Apart from pancreatic cancer, other cancers have already been detected by olfactory tests on animals or microorganisms, including Caenorhabditis elegans.

In this study, the authors organized a nationwide study group comprising high-volume centers across Japan to collect patients with very early stage pancreatic cancer. They initially performed an open-label study of 83 cases, with subsequent results showing significant differences after surgical removal at stage 0-IA. Preoperative urine samples had a significantly higher chemotaxis index than postoperative samples in pancreatic cancer patients and healthy volunteers.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the deadliest diseases, with a five-year survival rate of 9%.

Dr Hideshi Ishii, Osaka University

Similar to sniffer dogs, the use of Caenorhabditis elegans was introduced as a new strategy to detect cancer-associated odors during cancer screening. This laboratory diagnosis had a reported sensitivity of 95.8%, which was also acceptable even in patients with early stage cancer. In addition, reports have shown that this test has demonstrated high sensitivity in cases of gastrointestinal cancers and negative changes in the postoperative period. In addition, this test could discriminate urine in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer.

Therefore, this method can be useful in detecting patients with early PDAC. However, how the study still used this method to detect PDAC at a very early stage, mainly due to the extreme difficulty in collecting urine samples from these patients. In the present study, they organized a national clinical group that included high-volume centers across Japan and prospectively collected serum and urine samples from patients with very early PDAC to study the clinical value of a cancer detection system involving C. elegans.

The Ishii research team concluded in their Oncotarget research result, “The present study observed higher chemotaxis of C. elegans in patients with very early PDAC, suggesting its potential for use as a standard method. to detect cancer at an early stage. Nevertheless, the mechanisms underlying this chemotaxis should be clarified in order to obtain information that could help elucidate the biological characteristics of cancer. “


Journal reference:

Asaï, A., et al. (2021) Odor test using Caenorhabditis elegans to screen for pancreatic cancer at an early stage. Oncotarget.

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