health

Japanese firm develops world's first early screening test for pancreatic cancer, using worms

5 Comments
By Rocky Swift

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Masahiro Kami, the head of the Medical Governance Research Institute think tank in Tokyo, said that false positives could greatly outnumber actual cases of pancreatic cancer, making the results "not usable".

This is extremely important for screening tests aimed to large number of people. Having 1% of false positives a year for 1000 patients of high risk is one thing, but having the same percentage for a million of people that are tested just to see their risk is unaceptable.

False positives complicate a lot the risks of overtesting, that could lead to increased disadvantages that could be more important than the benefits. This is why companies usually have to first get very convincing results that they can present to the professionals that understand these risks. A direct appeal to the public is a red flag that could indicate the results are not clear enough to convince doctors, so they present them to the public that is more easily lead to believe it is a good test.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Certainly a lot to discuss on this subject.

So, they get a 1% false positive rate. And what is the rate of false negatives? If they have close to 0% of false negatives, and 1% false positives, then the test might still have value, as a sort of pre-screening system. Someone who is identified as genetically (or otherwise) predisposed to pancreatic cancer might find value with this test, as long as it is taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think the idea of using the olfactory sense of worms to look for cancer is fascinating, and shows the usefulness of looking into medicine from the viewpoint of different cultures.

A co worker was taken prisoner by the Germans during Operation Market Garden. He was part of the "Bridge Too Far" episode. He had been 4 F in the US, so he went up to Canada to enlist, and ended up with the British first airborne division. Bye 1942 the Brits were desperate for personnel, and much more likely to overlook things like bad eyesight. The point of the story is that when the Germans finally found him he had been laying in a ditch for two days, too injured to crawl out. He had gangrene in one of his legs. Rather than amputate his leg, the Germans put maggots onto the rotten parts of his leg. Supposedly, maggots only eat rotten flesh, and not healthy tissue. Well, it worked. Although he walked the rest of his life with a pronounced limp, he was able to walk, and even held down a job. I read somewhere that the Japanese also used maggots to treat gangrene, but I am not aware of that technique being done in the USA. So, back to my point, we can learn things by looking at how others approach a problem.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is extremely important for screening tests aimed to large number of people. Having 1% of false positives a year for 1000 patients of high risk is one thing, but having the same percentage for a million of people that are tested just to see their risk is unaceptable.

According to and as written in the article, this is the case.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

According to and as written in the article, this is the case.

No, according to the opinion of the experts in the article the tests have not yet been characterized and discussed in the medical community properly, which makes their direct promotion to patients at the very least risky, and may even be misleading.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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