Background & aims: Screening of high-risk groups for pancreatic cancer has not been adopted because of concerns regarding specificity and sensitivity. Suitability of a combination of 3 novel molecular screening techniques was investigated.
Methods: Pancreatic juice was extracted from 146 patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, chronic pancreatitis, or biliary tract stones. p53 mutations were analyzed by using a modified yeast functional assay, K-ras status was analyzed using mutation-specific real-time PCR and the proportion of p16(INK4a) promoter methylation was estimated using comparative methylation-specific real-time PCR.
Results: p53 mutations were detected in 20 of 48 (42%) cancer cases, none of 49 controls, and 2 of 49 (4%) patients with pancreatitis. K-ras mutations were detected in 31 of 57 (54%) cancer patients, 13 of 61 (21%) controls, and 23 of 67 (34%) patients with pancreatitis. Twenty-six of 42 (62%) cancer patients had promoter methylation levels > 12%, compared with 3 of 24 (13%) controls, and 2 of 26 (8%) with pancreatitis. Mutations in p53 or high-level p16(INK4a) promoter methylation occurred in 29 of 36 (80%) patients with cancer, 3 of 24 (13%) controls, and 3 of 22 (13%) with pancreatitis. Three patients (8%) of 36 with cancer; 14 of 24 (58%) controls, and 13 of 22 (59%) patients with pancreatitis had no marker. The gallstone disease patients had a high rate of positive K-ras mutations, possibly reflecting the fact that they were not disease free.
Conclusions: Combination molecular analysis increased the discrimination between patients with malignant and benign disease. This level of discrimination would allow patients in high-risk groups to be stratified from negligible risk to over 50% probability of an early cancer.