Researchers to Study Onset Diabetes and Correlation to Pancreatic Cancer

MANHATTAN BEACH (CNS ) - The Manhattan Beach-based Pancreatic Cancer Action Network announced the launch of its Early Detection Initiative, an interventional study that will look at whether imaging at the time of new onset diabetes would lead to earlier detection of pancreatic cancer.

Currently, there is no standard screening test, like a mammogram or colonoscopy, for early detection of pancreatic cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. and has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, with just 10% of those diagnosed surviving five years or more.

Because symptoms are often vague and mimic other illnesses or conditions, most patients are diagnosed when they are already in the late stages of the disease, so finding a pancreatic tumor early, when it can be surgically removed, is critical for survival.

While its known that risk factors such as having a first-degree relative or certain gene mutations may increase the likelihood that someone will develop pancreatic cancer, recent research also indicates that in a small portion of individuals who develop diabetes over age 50, their diabetes is actually an early symptom of pancreatic cancer, according to PanCAN.

Its Early Detection Initiative will focus on that population, looking at changes in their blood sugar and weight, and the relationship between the development -- and early detection -- of pancreatic cancer.

“The ability to identify high-risk groups to screen for pancreatic cancer has been a top priority for PanCAN and the research community for many years,'' said Julie Fleshman, the nonprofit's president and CEO. “This initiative is an ambitious undertaking and significant investment for PanCAN and we are hopeful that the results of this study will lead to an early detection strategy for this disease.''

She said PanCAN is investing $25 million in the study and also collaborating with the National Cancer Institute and a team of researchers, clinicians, statisticians and diagnostic specialists from across the country.

PanCAN began developing the Early Detection Initiative in 2018 and the protocol received Institutional Review Board approval in 2020.

For the randomized controlled trial, eligible participants will be identified through electronic medical record systems at participating institutions, with the intention of finding patients at the earliest indication of diabetes. Only people identified through their institution's electronic medical records will be able to participate.

In addition to imaging tests for eligible patients who consent to take part in the study, blood samples will be also collected and  will be pooled with specimens collected through the NCI's New Onset Diabetes Study in order to search for blood-based biomarkers to indicate the early presence of pancreatic cancer.

The ultimate goal will be to inform current clinical guidelines to develop a screening approach that will allow doctors to catch pancreatic cancer sooner in a subset of patients.

“We are pleased to work with PanCAN on this important effort to better understand the connection between new onset diabetes and pancreatic cancer,'' said Dr. Norman E. “Ned'' Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute. “Our hope is this collaboration will lead to new opportunities for early detection of pancreatic cancer that have a meaningful impact on the lives of patients.''

For more information about the Early Detection Initiative, go to

Photo: Getty Images

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