An Endoscope with an Oxygen Sensor Helps Detect Pancreatic Cancer

First Posted: Jun 08, 2014 11:45 PM EDT

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Florida have determined how to identify pancreatic cancer in patients through the use of a simple endoscopic procedure by attaching a an optical blood oxygen sensor, according to a study published in GIE: Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

This new device acts similar to the well-known clothespin-type finger clip that's used to measure blood oxygen in patients and has a 92 percent sensitivity rate and a 86 percent sensitivity rate.

"Although this is a small pilot study, the outcome is very promising. There is no test now available that can accurately identify pancreatic cancer at an early stage, short of removing some of the organ," said the study's senior investigator and gastroenterologist Michael Wallace, M.D., M.P.H., in a press release. "We need new ways to detect pancreatic cancer effectively, and simply, as early as possible."

Unfortunately, close to 90 percent of pancreatic cancers are discovered at an advanced metastatic stage when effective treatments may no longer be an option. Researchers hope that early detection can assist this common U.S. cancer that ranks fourth among cancer causing deaths in the United States.

"We are now confirming our findings in a much larger study, involving institutions in the U.S. and in Europe," Dr. Wallace added. 

"What is quite unusual is that we were trying to sense changes that are not in the tumor itself but are in the nearby, normal-appearing tissues," he said. "It relies on a principle, now being increasingly acknowledged, called a cancer field effect. Instead of looking for the needle in the haystack, we now look at the haystack to see how it is different when there's a needle inside."

"The general concept is that cancers cause surrounding tissue to undergo changes in the flow of oxygen that are detectable, not visually or even under the microscope, but by this kind of sensor," Dr. Wallace concluded, via the release. 

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