Liquid biopsy for pancreatic cancer detection using infrared spectroscopy

Sala, Alexandra and Cameron, James M. and Jenkins, Cerys A. and Barr, Hugh and Christie, Loren and Conn, Justin J. A. and Evans, Thomas R. Jeffry and Harris, Dean A. and Palmer, David S. and Rinaldi, Christopher and Theakstone, Ashton G. and Baker, Matthew J. (2022) Liquid biopsy for pancreatic cancer detection using infrared spectroscopy. Cancers, 14 (13). 3048. ISSN 2072-6694 (

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Pancreatic cancer claims over 460,000 victims per year. The carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 test is the blood test used for pancreatic cancer’s detection; however, its levels can be raised in symptomatic patients with other non-malignant diseases, or with other tumors in the surrounding area. Attenuated total reflection Fourier-transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy has demonstrated exceptional potential in cancer diagnostics, and its clinical implementation could represent a significant step towards early detection. This proof-of-concept study, investigating the use of ATR-FTIR spectroscopy on dried blood serum, focused on the discrimination of both cancer versus healthy control samples, and cancer versus symptomatic non-malignant control samples, as a novel liquid biopsy approach for pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Machine learning algorithms were applied, achieving results of up to 92% sensitivity and 88% specificity when discriminating between cancers (n = 100) and healthy controls (n = 100). An area under the curve (AUC) of 0.95 was obtained through receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis. Balanced sensitivity and specificity over 75%, with an AUC of 0.83, were achieved with cancers (n = 35) versus symptomatic controls (n = 35). Herein, we present these results as demonstration that our liquid biopsy approach could become a simple, minimally invasive, and reliable diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer detection.


Sala, Alexandra ORCID logoORCID:, Cameron, James M., Jenkins, Cerys A., Barr, Hugh, Christie, Loren, Conn, Justin J. A., Evans, Thomas R. Jeffry, Harris, Dean A., Palmer, David S. ORCID logoORCID:, Rinaldi, Christopher, Theakstone, Ashton G. and Baker, Matthew J. ORCID logoORCID:;