Early Detection

One of the main reasons for the dismal survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients is that they are diagnosed at a late stage, either locally advanced or already spread to other organs. But when this disease is detected early, survival can be significantly improved. Building on the Atlas project, Brenden-Colson Center researchers are creating a detailed view of the evolution of pancreatic cancer.

By applying this information and leveraging our clinical resources such as the Oregon Pancreatic Tumor Registry, we will be able to develop new diagnostic tests.  Our early detection efforts also include both academic and industry collaborations to speed up moving such new tests into clinical practice. We are also closely aligned with the Knight Cancer Institute's Center for Early Detection Advanced Research.

Ongoing research projects

Our research team headed up by Erin Gilbert, M.D., has been working to refine the dynamic contrast enhanced-MRI protocol to couple a dual-contrast agent with novel data modeling methods to enable high-resolution quantification of parameters characterizing the microvasculature, blood perfusion, and tissue physiology of the pancreas with higher precision and reproducibility than is achievable with current clinical techniques. In our initial studies imaging high-risk, IPMN, and PDAC patients we were able to detect significant differences in modeling parameters that may be able to detect differences between healthy pancreas and malignancies.

BCCPC researcher Phil Streeter, Ph.D., has recently developed a novel method for high resolution flow cytometry to isolate PDAC-derived exosomes. One of our collaborators in the Knight's Center for Early Detection Advanced Research, Michael Heller, Ph.D., has also developed an innovative "lab on a chip" technology to isolate PDAC-derived exosomes from whole blood for clinical diagnostics. In conjunction with these exosome detection strategies, Dr. Streeter is working with BCCPC researchers to develop and test a panel of antibodies to specifically detect human PDAC-derived exosomes.

The Swedish company Immunovia has developed a blood-based biomarker "signature" for PDAC. The signature is able to accurately distinguish normal control samples from samples of each stage of PDAC with 98% accuracy. In 2016 the technology to analyze the Immunovia chip was transferred to the Knight Diagnostic Lab at OHSU. The BCCPC has been awarded funding from the 2017 Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to validate the platform on serum specimens from high-risk new onset diabetic patients. BCCPC will soon embark on a multi-site prospective clinical trial to screen patients at genetic high-risk of developing PDAC and fully validate the new test's reliability and usefulness.

  • Circulating tumor cells (Wong)
  • Early pancreatic disease progression using CLARITY (Muschler)
  • B cell-regulated pathways in PDAC (Coussens)
  • Activity monitors as early indicator of disease (Marks)
  • Activity MRI [aMRI] (Springer)