PerspectiveCANCER

Hiding in plain sight

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Science  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6446, pp. 1132-1133
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax9341

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Summary

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the deadliest human malignancies. This is in part due to the lack of a reliable method of early detection, because late-stage disease is largely refractory to treatment. Biomarkers for early disease detection have remained elusive. However, the glycan carbohydrate antigen 19-9 (CA19-9), which is produced by pancreatic cancer cells, is increased in the serum of most patients (1). It is clinically useful as a biomarker of tumor burden during treatment, rather than for early detection, because serum CA19-9 is also increased in other diseases, including inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer. To date, there has been little understanding of CA19-9 function in pancreatic pathophysiology. On page 1156 of this issue, Engle et al. (2) report that CA19-9 drives the development of pancreatitis and accelerates pancreatic tumor progression.

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