A Blood-Based Multi Marker Assay Supports the Differential Diagnosis of Early-Stage Pancreatic Cancer

Theranostics. 2019 Feb 12;9(5):1280-1287. doi: 10.7150/thno.29247. eCollection 2019.


The most frequent malignancy of the pancreas is the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Despite many efforts PDAC has still a dismal prognosis. Biomarkers for early disease stage diagnosis as a prerequisite for a potentially curative treatment are still missing. Novel blood-based markers may help to overcome this limitation. Methods: Prior to surgery plasma levels of thrombospondin-2 (THBS2), which was recently published as a novel biomarker, and CA19-9 from 52 patients with histologically proven PDAC were determined, circulating cell-free (cfDNA) was quantified. 15 patients with side-branch IPMNs without worrisome features and 32 patients with chronic pancreatitis served for comparison. Logit (logistic regression) models were used to test the performance of single biomarkers and biomarker combinations. Results: CA19-9 and THBS2 alone showed comparable c-statistics of 0.80 and 0.73, respectively, improving to 0.87 when combining these two markers. The c-statistic was further increased to 0.94 when combining CA19-9 and THBS2 with cfDNA quantification. This marker combination performed best for all PDAC stages but also for PDACs grouped by stage. The greatest improvement over CA19-9 was seen in the group of stage I PDAC, from 0.69 to 0.90 for the three marker combination. Conclusion:These data establish the combination of CA19-9, THBS2 and cfDNA as a composite liquid biomarker for non-invasive diagnosis of early-stage PDAC.

Keywords: CA19-9; circulating tumor DNA; liquid biopsy; pancreatic cancer; thrombospondin-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / methods*
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / diagnosis*
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / blood
  • Diagnosis, Differential*
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / methods*
  • Early Diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thrombospondins / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids
  • Thrombospondins
  • thrombospondin 2