Many patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cysts incidentally when undergoing an MRI or CT scan for another indication, and patients are usually asymptomatic until the cancer is advanced, making treatment challenging, the researchers noted.
The current standard for biopsies involves testing the fluid inside cysts to determine whether they're cancerous with 71% accuracy. When using virtual biopsy, diagnostic accuracy jumps to 97%.
Virtual biopsy uses endoscopic ultrasound-guided needle-based confocal laser endomicroscopy. The research team from Ohio State University in Columbus led by Dr. Somashekar Krishna performed a prospective study of 144 consecutive patients with a suspected pancreatic cystic lesion. They found endoscopic ultrasound-guided needle-based confocal laser endomicroscopy identified mucinous cystic lesions with 98% sensitivity, 94% specificity, and 97% accuracy. They presented their findings at the recent American Pancreatic Association's annual meeting.
The Ohio State researchers are now working to train doctors nationwide to perform this new diagnostic method and read the images provided by the scope. They're also developing artificial intelligence that will flag cases that are likely precancerous.
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