New markers for tailored treatment

Development of a new diagnostic and prognostic biomarker panel in blood for pancreatic cancer

New markers for tailored treatment

Roland Andersson, professor of surgery at Skåne University Hospital, is on the way to answering these questions. Together with his team, he is progressing towards a new test for pancreatic tumours.

“There has been no breakthrough on these points, but I consider that we are close now, primarily regarding diagnosis and prognosis/prediction as well as the division of disease stages. We are not talking about one type of tumour, but several subgroups with completely different outcomes and therefore different therapy needs”, he says.

“It’s the tumour’s biology that controls how things will turn out for the patient. The more knowledge we can acquire about the tumour’s behaviour, i.e. how a specific tumour is going to spread, the earlier we can start to tailor a more targeted treatment. Pancreatic cancer is never a “good kind” of cancer, but its aggressiveness can vary and a more extensive test can help us to use existing treatments in a smarter way. At present, all patients are generally treated in the same way: with surgical resection where possible, otherwise with chemotherapy. It’s a major surgical procedure and extends life, but does not often provide a cure.”

Strikes randomly

A big challenge is knowing when to start looking, and who to examine, in order to find the cancer, if possible, “in time”.

“Five to ten per cent of those affected inherit the disease. Type 2 diabetes is a risk group, but the risk is relatively low. The vast majority simply contract it. We will of course look at the risk groups, but the aim is a prognostic test for people when there are clinical or X-ray-based suspicions of pancreatic cancer.”

New, patented histone

In cancer, the tumour can “leak” cell-free DNA, known as histones. Roland Andersson and his team have found a new histone, which they have patented, and it is now integrated in the work to develop a prognostic test – a biomarker panel with five to six markers. The work on the diagnosis tool has been converted into an enterprise called Reccan Diagnostics.

“We have fantastic material in the form of biobank material from blood and cancer tissue from patients with pancreatic cancer. Now we are seeking a further parameter and we will validate the histone in a larger cohort, along with other new biomarkers in both tissue and blood. I believe that we can have a prototype out for tests in tissue and blood within two years”, states Roland Andersson.

Targets within reach

Funding from Swelife has been very important, he emphasises:

“Swelife came in and supported us at a stage when we had found a couple of new markers. Thanks to this we have been able to carry on working and will soon have reached the target of having five to six markers in a panel for both diagnosis and prognosis and also have information about stratification prior to treatment and answers on this.”

Updated: 15 November 2017

Text: Jörgen Olsson