Precision Exosome Analysis for Early Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer



Research team: Liam A. McDonnell, Elisa Giovannetti, Asia Botto

Pancreatic cancer is a major unsolved health problem with less than 10% of patients alive 5 years after diagnosis. A recent study demonstrated 5 year survival rates of >40% if the patients were treated prior to localized spread or metastasis to distant organs (Scand. J. Surgery. 2017 106:54). As with other cancers earlier diagnosis is expected to lead to improved response to chemotherapy/radiotherapy/immunotherapy because the tumor would have had less opportunity to develop resistance mechanisms.

The project focuses on early diagnosis in pancreatic cancer, using cellular engineering approaches to enable the isolation of exosomes from target cells with target phenotypes. The hypothesis is that the identification of unique/highly differentiated markers of specific target cells will enable their isolation from patient plasma, and thereby enably earlier diagnosis through the separation of the tumor-specific exosomes from the large exosome background. The potential of this precision exosome isolation methodology to benefit earlier diagnosis will be assessed using the plasma from a small series of pancreatic cancer patients and healthy controls.