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Research Shows Test That Detects Benign Pancreatic Cysts

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For the first time, there’s a simple test that detects benign pancreatic cysts with 99 percent accuracy, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Max Schmidt, a professor of surgery at the IU School of Medicine and senior author of the benign cysts study, joined Sound Medicine to speak on why the research is life-changing for those who fear their cysts will one day become pancreatic cancer.

Currently, patients with pancreatic cysts undergo several invasive procedures for diagnosis, like x-rays, lab tests, and endoscopies, according to Dr. Max Schmidt. There are methods of removing fluid from the cysts to tests its VEGFA level, which is exactly what his new study involves doing. The test checks for the biomarker vascular endothelial growth factor A, or VEGF-A. High levels of VEGFA indicate that a cyst is unlikely to become malignant and could potentially save patients from years of tests and surgery.

“The wonderful thing about that, of course, is we can get them [patients with benign cysts] out of the intervention loop, they can no longer need biopsies, no longer be considered for surgery, because a lot of these benign cysts can mimic the bad ones,” Dr. Schmidt says.

Until recently, a similar VEGFA-testing method had been used by other researchers, but with only 75 percent accuracy.  

The study, once finalized and made public for patient-use (though he encourages patients to contact him now for access to the test), will allow doctors to test patients from their offices.

“That’s the beauty of this test: These patients would be off the hook, so to speak, and the bystander wouldn’t be affected by the interventions that are necessary in the other patients," Dr. Schmidt says.