Science & Tech
University of Alberta researchers develop urine test for pancreatic cancer

The U of A's Dr. Michael Sawyer is the leader of a team that has pioneered a new method of detective pancreatic cancer early in Edmonton, Dec. 5, 2012.

Credits: Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agency

JEFF CUMMINGS | QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON —  A team of medical researchers at the University of Alberta has discovered an easier and more accurate way to diagnose pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Michael Sawyer, the leader of the team that made the medical breakthrough, says the cancer can now be detected with a non-invasive urine test.

He says lab workers now have the ability to detect unique tumour-related signatures in the urine samples.

The breakthrough is huge for both medical researchers and patients, Sawyer says, because pancreatic cancer — dubbed by some in the medical field as the "silent killer" — has been so difficult to detect.

"Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose and that is why it is so deadly," Sawyer said.

"It is the 12th most common cancer to occur and the most deadly cancer. The symptoms are really vague — people (who may have disease) feel unwell, but they don't know quite why.

"It puzzles the doctors and the patients as to why they're sick."

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