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Study finds pancreatic cancer clues

CHICAGO -- Scientists have identified a molecule that could eventually help determine how to better treat highly lethal pancreatic cancer, according to a study published yesterday.

The report said a certain pattern found in a microRNA, a short ribonucleic acid molecule, may help tell the difference between chronic pancreatitis, an acute inflammation, and pancreatic cancer, thus helping distinguish long- and short-term survival time for patients with the cancer.

Pancreatic cancer kills about 33,000 people each year in the United States.

It spreads easily and is resistant to chemotherapy.

The study published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association involved an examination of specimens from 65 patients with ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas and 42 with chronic pancreatitis.

"We have identified -- we believe for the first time -- a global expression pattern of miRNAs that can differentiate ductal adenocarcinomas of the pancreas from normal pancreas and chronic pancreatitis with 95 percent accuracy," the study said.