Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly lethal disease for a multitude of reasons including very late diagnosis. This in part is due to the lack of understanding of the biological behavior of PDAC and the ineffective screening for this disease. Significant efforts have been dedicated to finding the appropriate serum and imaging biomarkers to help early detection and predict response to treatment of PDAC. Carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA 19-9) has been the most validated serum marker and has the highest positive predictive value as a stand-alone marker. When combined with carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and carbohydrate antigen 125 (CA 125), CA 19-9 can help predict the outcome of patients to surgery and chemotherapy. A slew of novel serum markers including multimarker panels as well as genetic and epigenetic materials have potential for early detection of pancreatic cancer, although these remain to be validated in larger trials. Imaging studies may not correlate with elevated serum markers. Critical features for determining PDAC include the presence of a mass, dilated pancreatic duct, and a duct cut-off sign. Features that are indicative of early metastasis includes neurovascular bundle involvement, duodenal invasion, and greater post contrast enhancement. 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose (18-FDG) radiotracer uptake and changes following treatment may predict patient overall survival following treatment. Similarly, pretreatment apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values may predict prognosis with lower ADC lesions having worse outcome. Although these markers have provided significant improvement in the care of pancreatic cancer patients, further advancements can be made with perhaps better combination of markers or discovery of unique marker(s) to pancreatic cancer.
Keywords: biomarker; imaging; pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma; serum.