A urine test for pancreatic cancer could boost survival rates to 60%, scientists believe. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

London - A urine test for pancreatic cancer could boost survival rates to 60 percent, scientists believe.

The test, developed by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, has reached the final stage of validation before being developed for use with patients.

Once approved it will be the world’s first quick and accurate test to diagnose pancreatic cancer in the early stages, which could revolutionise survival chances.

Pancreatic cancer is also one of the most deadly – one in four patients die within a month of diagnosis.

Only 3% survive for five years, compared to 87% for breast cancer and 98% for testicular cancer.

Sufferers show few symptoms in the early stages, so the cancer often goes undetected until it is too advanced to treat.

Doctors call the disease "a wolf in sheep’s clothing" because symptoms – back ache, jaundice and weight loss – are often mistaken for indigestion, acid reflux or back strain.

No screening or early detection tests exist for the disease and 53% are diagnosed at stage four – when it has spread around the body. If doctors do spot the signs, they can send patients for a CT or MRI scan – leading to diagnosis and treatment.

Professor Tatjana Crnogorac-Jurcevic, of Queen Mary University of London, said: "If we can detect pancreatic cancer when it’s still operable and when the tumours are small and not yet spread to other organs, we could see a significant impact on patient survival.

"Removing tumours that are 1cm or smaller can increase five-year survival to around 60%." The test measures levels of three proteins found in urine that are identified as biomarkers of early stage pancreatic cancer.

The biomarkers will now be tested in a £1.6-million (R30 million) clinical study of more than 3 000 people, funded by medical research charity Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund (PCRF).

If the test’s accuracy is confirmed, a standardised urine test will be developed for clinicians to use during diagnoses.

Maggie Blanks, chief executive of PCRF, said: "This is the largest single investment in a research project that PCRF has made to date, but we felt it was worth the risk because the need for early detection is so urgent."

Daily Mail