What Are Some Markers for Pancreatic Cancer?


Quick Answer

There are two tumor markers that are associated with pancreatic cancer: CA 19-9 and Carcinoembryonic antigen. These markers are generally only detectable in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and are not used to screen for the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Full Answer

Tumor markers are biological substances produced by cancer cells of a patient with a tumor, or by other cells in the body in response to the cancer. Markers can be used to monitor or screen for certain cancers, says the National Cancer Institute. In some cases, the presence of specific tumor markers can influence the type of treatment that is recommended to a patient. These can be proteins that are secreted by the cancer cells or can be genetic markers such as key mutations found in the cancer cells. Markers exist for cancers of the prostate, lung, bladder, ovaries and other body parts.

There are highly recurrent mutations that are associated with certain cancers. Pancreatic cancers are associated with mutations in a gene called KRAS, states WebMD. Fragments of DNA from cancer cells can be found circulating in the blood, and it has been suggested that detecting tumor-associated mutations in this DNA could be used as a tumor marker. While these tests are still being developed, KRAS mutations in the blood may one day be a marker of pancreatic cancer.

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