‘Virtual biopsy’ increases accuracy of precancerous pancreatic cyst identification
A first-of-its-kind study demonstrates that the combination of ‘virtual biopsies’ and cyst fluid testing allows for the more rapid and accurate determination of whether a pancreatic cyst is precancerous, compared with fluid testing – the current standard of care procedure – alone.
In a novel study, researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (OH, USA) have demonstrated that a combination of ‘virtual biopsy’ and cyst fluid testing allows for the more accurate, definitive identification of precancerous pancreatic cysts, compared with fluid testing – the current standard of care procedure – alone.
Pancreatic cancer represents the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the USA; however, discriminating potentially cancerous cysts from benign ones can be challenging. Currently, the standard of care for diagnosing precancerous pancreatic cysts involves testing a fluid sample from the cyst; the accuracy of this protocol is 71%.
In this study, researchers tested a new diagnostic method for determining whether pancreatic cysts are precancerous or not; the protocol involves using a small scope that emits a laser light inside the undetermined cyst, allowing clinicians to visualize the cyst wall and rapidly and accurately determine the cyst’s cancerous nature.
Researchers observed that, when the ‘virtual biopsy’ procedure was combined with the standard of care, diagnostic accuracy of precancerous pancreatic cysts increased to 97%.
Lead study author Somashekar Krishna (Ohio State's College of Medicine; OH, USA) commented: “Many times, we are able to tell the patient right after the procedure, 'You have a precancerous cyst, and we need to send you to the surgeon to have it removed'.”
Krishna added: “We hope that, at the end of the day, we are saving lives either by diagnosing pancreatic cancer early on before it develops into cancer, or we are preventing unnecessary surgery of a benign, harmless pancreatic cyst.”
As a result of this investigation, researchers are working to train physicians and clinicians at hospitals nationwide in the use of these novel diagnostic equipment and methods.