Pancreatic cancer (PC) is a highly lethal malignancy with near 100% mortality. This is in part due to the fact that most patients present with metastatic or locally advanced disease at the time of diagnosis. Significantly, in nearly 95% of PC patients there is neither an associated family history of PC nor of diseases known to be associated with an increased risk of PC. These groups of patients who comprise the bulk of PC cases are termed as "sporadic PC" in contrast to the familial PC cases that comprise only about 5% of all PCs. Given the insidious onset of the malignancy and its extreme resistance to chemo and radiotherapy, an abundance of research in recent years has focused on identifying biomarkers for the early detection of PC, specifically aiming at the sporadic PC cohort. However, while several studies have established that asymptomatic individuals with a positive family history of PC and those with certain heritable syndromes are candidates for PC screening, the role of screening in identifying sporadic PC is still an unsettled question. The present review attempts to assess this critical question by investigating the recent advances made in molecular markers with potential use in the early diagnosis of sporadic PC - the largest cohort of PC cases worldwide. It also outlines a novel yet simple risk factor based stratification system that could be potentially employed by clinicians to identify those individuals who are at an elevated risk for the development of sporadic PC and therefore candidates for screening.
Copyright Â© 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.