Richard Frank, MD
Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) has announced the launch of a 3-year research study that will investigate the link between new-onset diabetes and pancreatic cancer. The main goal of the study is to detect the often lethal cancer at a curable stage.
The study was developed by a team of physicians and researchers at the WCHN, led by Richard Frank, MD, Director of Clinical Cancer Research for WCHN. “The idea for the study came from an increasing appreciation of the link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer in those over 50 years of age. In particular, new-onset diabetes (diagnosed within the past year) is estimated to carry a seven-fold increased risk of the cancer in the first 3 years after a diagnosis of diabetes,” explained Dr. Frank. “This gives us the opportunity to attempt to detect pancreatic cancer at a very early stage.”
Estimates are that fewer than 1 out of 100 individuals with new-onset diabetes will develop pancreatic cancer. Still, there is great enthusiasm for the study. “We need to start somewhere,” explained Steven Brandwein, MD, a study co-investigator and Western Connecticut Medical Group gastroenterologist. “Our expansive health-care network is uniquely positioned to spearhead this type of research, which requires strong collaboration with primary care physician groups, as well as specialists in endocrinology, radiology, gastroenterology, pathology and surgery, all of whom are part of the network family.”
Study participants will undergo annual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the pancreas for 3 years. A specific MRI protocol was developed by WCHN radiologists. Suspicious lesions will be further investigated by a gastroenterologist using endoscopic ultrasound for the presence of cancer or precancerous changes. Participants will also donate a sample of blood every 6 months in order to create a serum biobank that may contain the earliest clues of pancreatic cancer at the DNA level. Since a blood test would be the optimal way to screen for pancreatic cancer, WCHN researchers will use the blood samples to identify a biomarker that does not currently exist. ■