A protein test can detect early-stage pancreatic cancer, said Garden State Cancer Center researchers, HealthDay News reported.

The test measured the presence of a specific protein called PAM4 present in 90 percent of cancerous and precancerous lesions.

Researchers said that PAM4 protein is very accurate at identifying patients with pancreatic cancer. If validated in larger studies, the test would be an effective tool for detecting the disease in its earlier, more treatable stages, before it spreads to other organs.
“Most patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed when the disease is advanced and more difficult to cure,” said study author David V. Gold, PhD, a member of the Garden State Cancer Center in New Jersey.

For the study, researchers conducted the new test on 68 patients who had pancreatic cancer surgery and 19 healthy people. Thanks to the test, researchers found stage 1 pancreatic cancer 62 percent of the time, stage two pancreatic cancer 86 percent of the time, and stages three and four of the disease 91 percent of the time.  

Overall, the test accurately detected 81 percent of pancreatic cancers. It rarely picked up pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) cases, a condition often mistaken for pancreatic cancer.

Only 7 percent of pancreatic cancers are currently caught before they spread to other parts of the body.

Read about three cancer patients who battled the disease and survived here.