March 5, 2024

Researchers look for ways to find pancreatic cancer early

Early detection of the disease, before it becomes advanced, will increase treatment options.

Dr. Bechien Wu (right) leads a research team working to identify potential markers for pancreatic cancer.

Game-show host Alex Trebek and singer Aretha Franklin shared something in common. They died from complications related to pancreatic cancer. The rare but deadly cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States.

Pancreatic cancer’s high death rate is because it often isn’t detected until the cancer spreads.

New research looks to improve early detection of pancreatic cancer.

There is a lack of effective screening methods, according to Bechien Wu, MD. Dr. Wu holds a Master of Public Health degree and is a gastroenterologist at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

“By the time someone presents with symptoms it’s often far too late,” said Dr. Wu. He and a team of researchers hope to change that.

Dr. Wu chairs the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Regional Research Committee. He and other physicians work with biostatisticians, data scientists, epidemiologists, and radiologists. Their goal: improving the early detection of pancreatic cancer. The team uses information gleaned from the member’s electronic health record.

Researchers hope to identify patients at risk of developing the disease. They’re also looking at the relationship between pancreatic cancer and new cases of high blood sugar and diabetes. Research focuses on people over age 50.

“Research is really important. It can help us try to identify this cancer in an earlier stage. Then, it can still be treated and potentially cured,” said Dr. Wu.

Learn more about cancer research at Kaiser Permanente.