New spectroscopy tool shows Promise for early colon cancer detection

Using novel light-scattering techniques, team of engineers from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and physicians from Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare have found the first evidence that early stage pancreatic cancer causes subtle changes in part of the small intestine. The easily monitored marker may ultimately allow early detection for a disease notorious for having few obvious symptoms, the primary reason pancreatic cancer killed more than 33,000 Americans last year. The new detection techniques, developed with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), produce an optic fingerprint from the altered tissue and then enhance the data for a clearer diagnosis. The researchers scanned tissue samples from 19 people already diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and 32 without the disease.

They properly distinguished patients with cancer at an accuracy approaching 100 percent. The clearest results came from patients in the earliest stages of the disease. While clinical use is perhaps three to five years in the future, and ongoing studies are needed to confirm the results, the researchers hope the tests can eventually be done without the biopsy.