Early detection of pancreatic cancer advances at Nuvance Health

Graphic design of a pancreas with a magnifying glass


Nuvance Health researchers are making progress towards detecting pancreatic cancer earlier when it is more treatable


Although there is presently no standard way to detect pancreatic cancer at the earliest stages, a study from researchers at Nuvance Health is showing promise.


In results recently published by the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, researchers found that annual magnetic resonance imaging/magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRI/MRCP) of the pancreas was safe and effective for screenings, although the follow-up period was short. Further, no harm was caused by the detection of incidental findings unrelated to the pancreas.


The study included individuals with either a strong family history of pancreatic cancer or those with a predisposing hereditary gene mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Out of 75 individuals enrolled, one precancerous tumor was detected and successfully surgically removed.


Despite major advances in the treatment of most types of cancers over the past decade, pancreatic cancer continues to have a high fatality rate.


“There is currently no reliable screening or early detection test for pancreatic cancer. Most people find out they have pancreatic cancer when it causes symptoms and is at an advanced stage,” said Dr. Richard Frank, the principal investigator for the study and chief of cancer research for Nuvance Health. “Current therapies against advanced stages of pancreatic cancer are only marginally effective.”


“Our study is notable because we were able to safely and effectively execute a highly-advanced method of screening for pancreatic cancer in a community-based setting. We also found that screening individuals at high risk for pancreatic cancer reduced their anxiety and depression associated with possibly developing the disease,” said Dr. Frank, who is also a medical oncologist at the Norwalk Hospital C. Anthony & Jean Whittingham Cancer Center.


The findings further support expanding pancreatic cancer screening to all eligible individuals.


Nuvance Health researchers are running a second study with participants who are high-risk for pancreatic cancer. Participants are age 50 and older and have new-onset or deteriorating diabetes. Researchers are aiming to determine the effectiveness of early detection of pancreatic cancer in this much larger group of individuals.


Nuvance Health pancreatic cancer research is registered on (ID: NCT03250078 and NCT03937453), and funded by a Tribute to Pamela/The Naughton Family Fund, The Rallye for Pancreatic Cancer and the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation.


For inquiries about participating in pancreatic cancer early detection studies at Nuvance Health, contact Tammy Lo, APRN at 203-855-3551.


Learn more about pancreatic cancer research at Nuvance Health.